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Bahrain blast and security of the Gulf

March 20, 2014 - 4:27:04 am
The explosion that took place in Bahrain earlier this month, killing three policemen and injuring others, came as a shock to all of us. Bahrain designated three groups as “terrorist organisations” following the blast. The three groups are the February 14 movement, Saraya Al Ashtar (Ashtar Brigade) and Saraya Al Muqawama (Resistance Brigade). Those supporting or allied with these groups are also blacklisted.

The foreign ministers of the GCC states denounced the bombing, describing it as a “criminal and cowardly act”. It is important to note that some elements have been planted inside Bahrain to destabilise that country as well as the eastern Gulf coast as a whole. I would like to state here that it is the “Arabian Gulf”, not the “Persian Gulf”. 

We were expecting that the incident would prod the Gulf countries into a common position against these groups and those who support them. We were expecting the incident to encourage those who are in dispute with the people who support those groups – whether in relation to occupied islands or movements begun in 2011 to sow the seeds of chaos – to take some action. 

Instead, those people have chosen the wrong track. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain have recalled their ambassadors in their sister country Qatar under illogical pretexts. 

Almost a year ago, two earthquakes of magnitudes 6.5 and 7.6 hit Bushehr province in southeastern Iran, just off the Arabian Gulf coast. The same province is home to a nuclear reactor. Tremors from the two quakes were felt in the Gulf countries. 

The tremors rattled nerves across the Gulf, where analysts said that the reactor posed a threat to the Arabian Gulf coast because of its proximity to the Gulf. They also said that Iran had not paid enough attention to safety standards in building the reactor, adding that the Persian state’s nuclear activities and objectives were shrouded in ambiguity.

The Gulf countries are suffering from more serious shocks now, but these are political in nature.

Ashtar Brigade claimed responsibility for the Manama blast in two statements that contained a new discourse that had appeared in the Arab lexicon for the first time. The government of Bahrain is in a dialogue with these groups even though it doubts their affiliations. 

The blast also had Hassan Nasrallah defending himself and his movement by denying any links between this movement and those who carried it out, even though those behind the attack belong to the same sect as his movement. 

On the day of the 2013 earthquake, the Iranians and the Russians (the owners of the reactor and the officials of the company which built it) gave assurances that a radiation leak would not take place. Gulf officials hurriedly met in Riyadh, expressed their fears, denounced Iran’s nuclear activities and called on it to observe international standards and join the convention on nuclear safety. 

Nothing, however, was done beyond issuing statements because the people who met in Riyadh seem to have been thinking only of themselves. We have not heard anything about the Gulf unity project, except for talk of the common market and a unified currency. None of these things have seen the light of day. 

Gulf leaders meeting in Riyadh recently condemned the Bahrain bombing. They, however, did not make any attempt to uproot the new cancer that has entered the Gulf body and started to metastasise.

We are not foolish to think only of geographic and geopolitical dangers. The problem does not lie in the presence of a neighbouring country that has gone nuclear. The problem does not lie in threats from this country that it can use force against its neighbours either, but it lies in the possibility that this country can actually use this force.

Countries are racing against each other to benefit from nuclear energy. The international community has suddenly turned a blind eye to a “rogue” country using this energy, although it has built a reactor in an area facing us residents of the Gulf. We did not learn a lesson from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster because we only think of the present. Gulf leaders expressed their fears only after everything was over. Bushehr has already become a reality and Iran is not giving up its nuclear programme. It has not said that it is searching for alternative sources of energy. Iran has also described the Gulf countries’ fears as propaganda. 

Worse still, that country has sponsored some groups and planted them in the Gulf countries. These groups are proving more dangerous than the nuclear reactor. 

Iran sponsors groups that are playing major roles in the division of Iraq and Syria. The same groups intervene in Lebanon, apart from threatening the security of the Gulf, from Bahrain to the eastern coast of Saudi Arabia. These groups have gone beyond the demands of simple minorities to the extent of destabilising secure countries for the satisfaction of the ayatollah. 

The bombing in Bahrain has raised fears in Gulf leaders similar to that of radiation leaks from Iran’s nuclear reactor. The brigade perpetrating the attack announced its loyalty to the ayatollah. 

Reining in sectarian groups that have spread their venom in Bahrain, the Gulf coast and some of its countries must be a top priority for the Gulf countries. It must also be one of the most important issues in the whole region. There must be strong cooperation aimed at rooting them out.  

The sorry thing, though, is that some people have lost their direction. Some countries have recalled their ambassadors in Qatar instead of acting on the western coast of the Gulf. We were expecting that some preparations would be made for us to be able to counter this danger instead.