Bahrain Could Be the Next Target of Iranian Expansion

Jan. 31 2018

The island nation of Bahrain is allied with the U.S. and Saudi Arabia; it is also a Shiite-majority country governed by a narrow Sunni elite. Through 2011, restive Shiites periodically rioted or engaged in low-grade terror: throwing Molotov cocktails and setting off bombs meant to frighten rather than to kill or maim. But since then, the armed opposition has grown more sophisticated, relying on small, harder to penetrate cells, carefully planned attacks, and far more sophisticated and deadly explosives. Michael Knights and Matthew Levitt see much evidence of support from Iran and Hizballah:

Since 2011, Iran and its proxy militias in Lebanon and Iraq have mounted an unprecedented effort to train, activate, and resupply cells ready to set off improvised explosive devices (IEDs) inside Bahrain. Following the military suppression of Arab Spring protests in Bahrain, a number of Shiite youths traveled abroad to receive Iranian training in camps and battlefronts in Iran, Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria. Iran’s effort brought significant quantities of military high explosives into Bahrain and assisted Bahraini cells in developing workshops capable of churning out reliable, remote-controlled IEDs. Bahraini militants [also] have emerged as a smaller, tempered movement with better operational security.

Knights and Levitt suggest that Tehran may be waiting for general unrest, as during the 2011 Arab Spring, to activate the various cells it is cultivating in Bahrain—the same strategy it employed to foment and exploit chaos in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. Or the plan could be to use Bahrain as a springboard to Saudi Arabia:

Located across a 25-kilometer causeway from Bahrain, the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia is a predominantly Shiite area that holds more than 20 percent of the world’s total proven oil reserves and serves as the center of the kingdom’s oil and petrochemicals industries. The Shiite population has become more restive in recent years. . . .

The [recent] increase in violence in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province is even more notable than in Bahrain. In 2014-2015, there were just four attacks on security forces, all shooting incidents that left a total of five officers dead and three wounded. In 2016-2017, the number of attacks jumped to 24, with 18 killed and 39 wounded, with an even balance of shootings and bomb attacks. The importation of IEDs from Bahrain may be one factor in this change. . . .

On November 10, 2017, Bahraini militants may have acted on their intent [to bring their operations to Saudi Arabia] by bombing a key pipeline . . . supplying Saudi Arabian crude to the Bahrain Petroleum Company refinery.

You have 2 free articles left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Bahrain, Hizballah, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, Saudi Arabia

 

Yasir Arafat’s Decades-Long Alliance with Iran and Its Consequences for Both Palestinians and Iranians

Jan. 18 2019

In 2002—at the height of the second intifada—the Israeli navy intercepted the Karina A, a Lebanese vessel carrying 50 tons of Iranian arms to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). But Yasir Arafat’s relationship with the Islamic Republic goes much farther back, to before its founding in 1979. The terrorist leader had forged ties with followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that grew especially strong in the years when Lebanon became a base of operations both for Iranian opponents of the shah and for the PLO itself. Tony Badran writes:

The relationship between the Iranian revolutionary factions and the Palestinians began in the late 1960s, in parallel with Arafat’s own rise in preeminence within the PLO. . . . [D]uring the 1970s, Lebanon became the site where the major part of the Iranian revolutionaries’ encounter with the Palestinians played out. . . .

The number of guerrillas that trained in Lebanon with the Palestinians was not particularly large. But the Iranian cadres in Lebanon learned useful skills and procured weapons and equipment, which they smuggled back into Iran. . . . The PLO established close working ties with the Khomeinist faction. . . . [W]orking [especially] closely with the PLO [was] Mohammad Montazeri, son of the senior cleric Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri and a militant who had a leading role in developing the idea of establishing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) once the revolution was won.

The Lebanese terrorist and PLO operative Anis Naccache, who coordinated with [the] Iranian revolutionaries, . . . takes personal credit for the idea. Naccache claims that Jalaleddin Farsi, [a leading Iranian revolutionary]. approached him specifically and asked him directly to draft the plan to form the main pillar of the Khomeinist regime. The formation of the IRGC may well be the greatest single contribution that the PLO made to the Iranian revolution. . . .

Arafat’s fantasy of pulling the strings and balancing the Iranians and the Arabs in a grand anti-Israel camp of regional states never stood much of a chance. However, his wish to see Iran back the Palestinian armed struggle is now a fact, as Tehran has effectively become the principal, if not the only, sponsor of the Palestinian military option though its direct sponsorship of Islamic Jihad and its sustaining strategic and organizational ties with Hamas. By forging ties with the Khomeinists, Arafat unwittingly helped to achieve the very opposite of his dream. Iran has turned [two] Palestinian factions into its proxies, and the PLO has been relegated to the regional sidelines.

You have 1 free article left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hamas, History & Ideas, Iran, Lebanon, PLO, Yasir Arafat