Where Does the Tehran-Riyadh-Manama Triangle Lead To?

11 October 2014 | 18:29 Code : 1939470 Interview General category
An interview with Dr. Hermidas Bavand, a university professor and expert on international affairs
Where Does the Tehran-Riyadh-Manama Triangle Lead To?

Bahrain was previously mentioned as one of the countries accused of supporting ISIL but today the foreign minister of this country talks about supporting the coalition against this group. What is the basis of Bahrain’s approaches and positions with regard to ISIL?

The main countries behind the financial and military support of ISIL were Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Of course, some of the Persian Gulf Littoral States, except Oman, usually follow Saudi Arabia. Oman has tried to remain on the sidelines. Qatar has attempted to pursue a different policy. Nonetheless, other Persian Gulf Littoral States including the UAE, Kuwait and Bahrain have always followed the policies of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has also supported these countries. For example, Saudi Arabia supported Bahrain in the dispute over the division of land between Qatar and Bahrain. Therefore, it cannot be said that Bahrain is directly involved in this matter. Bahrain does not have the financial and military capabilities but rich countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar have this capability.

How has the domestic crisis in Bahrain affected the positions of the government officials with regard to the fight against terrorism so that they may use this issue as a scapegoat from their internal crisis?

In general, those countries which are faced with internal challenges welcome any movement which supports the issue of fighting against terrorism. For example, following the Sept. 11th attack, many countries which were confronted with political and security crises welcomed the international fight against terrorism and even financially supported them; including Russia which had problems with Chechnya and China which was faced with challenges in Tibet. India also welcomed this matter because of the issue of Kashmir. Therefore, Bahrain, which is now faced with the movement of the majority against the minority, welcomes this issue. The people of Bahrain believe that based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, their rights have been trampled upon and attempt to regain their rights through peaceful measures. Bahrain also attempts to affiliate them to foreign countries including Iran and states that Iran supports them or calls them a terrorist group. Thus, countries which are faced with domestic problems take advantage of the term ‘terrorism’ in order to justify their actions and attempt to support any international moves against terrorism. The reason is that then their hands will be open for taking measures against the opposition. In fact, they consider the opposition groups as terrorists; hence, they will have more freedom of action to fight against them.

Are there similarities between Syria and Iraq and Bahrain with regard to ethnic issues?

Syria is a secular government. At the same time Syria is formed of the Alawis, Druzes, Kurds, Christians and the Sunnis. The minority in this country, meaning the Kurds, the Druzes and the Christians, support the secular government because in a religious government these minorities would have no place in taking higher positions. Europeans used to use minorities for security and police forces. For example, Britain used the Tatans in India or the Christian minority in Burma. The French used the Alawis from the beginning. Following Syria’s independence, the Alawis could not establish the military anatomy of Syria; hence, they came to power through a coup d’état. In Iraq, the Sunnis traditionally ruled over Baghdad and Basra since the Ottoman Empire and this trend continued after Britain’s entrance. This means that they deprived the Shiite majority and considered them as second-degree citizens. In Bahrain the majority of the people were Shiites; whether with Iranian origins or non-Iranians. The issue of the dispute with the Shiites has a historical background. The root of these differences is related to the time when Britain supported Bahrain and reiterated that the Sunnis should rule over this country. Even at that time, Britain ordered that the Iranians should have passports to enter this country and made efforts so that Persian would not be taught in schools and Arabic should be taught instead. Their attempts were made towards Arabizing this country. The issue of Bahrain is different.

After the visit made by Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister to Saudi Arabia and the meeting held between the Foreign Ministers of Iran and Saudi Arabia on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, there are signs of the reestablishment of relations between these two countries. What impacts would the improvement of relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia have on the domestic developments in Bahrain? This is while Saudi Arabia accuses Iran of being involved in Bahrain’s internal crisis.

Accusing other countries is a natural phenomenon and every country attempts to affiliate movements to another one in order to justify its own behavior. At the same time, the UN and the US have had an optional approach with regard to this issue. Right now the US Fifth Fleet is in this country and the US is not willing to change the present situation based on its own interests. On one hand, Saudi Arabia considers Bahrain its own backyard. Any change in Bahrain will affect the Saudi Shiites as well. Therefore, Saudi Arabia’s interests are in taking positions in support of Bahrain. There are numerous differences between Iran and Saudi Arabia regarding the issue of Syria. On the other hand, since Saudi Arabia’s expectations from the US in Syria with regard to its fight against Iran and Syria were not met, relations between the US and Saudi Arabia have become cold. The dialogue established between Iran and the US also became a matter of concern for Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, the relations between Riyadh and Ankara also became cold over the issue of the Muslim Brotherhood. All of these issues caused Saudi Arabia to find its interests in the improvement of relations with Iran. But the main point is that Saudi Arabia and Qatar seek to draw the coalition against ISIL in Syria towards Assad’s forces. Since Iran believes in the remaining in power of the Assad government but Saudi Arabia has found an opportunity to spread the coalition against ISIL towards the Assad forces, another difference has been created between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Of course, Iran is ready to accept the issue that while maintaining the present regime in Syria, Assad would be removed and a coalition among the moderate groups without Assad would be formed. If conditions are limited for Iran, then it might accept this issue. But if the crisis in Syria is strengthened and the fight against ISIL spreads to the fight against the government of Syria, relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia would be worsened. Of course this issue depends on the near future. On the other hand, since Bahrain follows Saudi Arabia, any position taken by Saudi Arabia with regard to Iran would affect Bahrain’s position regarding Iran as well.

tags: saudi arabia bahrain iran qatar

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