Bahrain is asserting that the Iranian-backed, Shiite Muslim militia Hezbollah is seeking to overthrow the Persian Gulf nation’s Sunni Muslim monarchy.
Protests against the monarchy have been “exacerbated by the active involvement of Hezbollah, a militia that operates freely in Lebanon outside any government control to conduct terrorist activities,” Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid Bin Ahmed Al Khalifa said in an April 17 letter to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Hezbollah’s “interference” includes military training of Bahraini citizens in Hezbollah camps and “inflammatory and inciting statements” by leaders of the group, he said in the letter. Hezbollah also meets with “Bahraini facilitators in order to draw strategies and operations,” he said.
Terrorist acts in Bahrain have used the “same methods and tactics” as Hezbollah, Sheikh Khalid said.
The letter, which was reported yesterday by the Wall Street Journal, refers to logistical support to Hezbollah’s efforts to destabilize Bahrain by “some foreign countries.” The countries aren’t identified. Previously, Bahrain’s King Hamad Bin Issa Al Khalifa has accused opposition leaders of colluding with Shiite- ruled Iran in “subversive designs.”
Bahraini riot police on March 16 drove protesters from their rallying point in the capital of Manama a day after the government declared a three-month state of emergency. Saudi Arabia-led Gulf troops arrived in the country to provide support as the Sunni monarchy crushed mainly Shiite demands for democracy, inspired by the toppling of leaders in Tunisia and Egypt earlier this year.
At least 21 people were killed during the crackdown, according to the Bahrain Human Rights Society.
The Gulf Cooperation Council and Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister, Saad Hariri, have criticized Iran’s interference in the affairs of Bahrain and other Arab countries. Sheikh Khaled, in an April 19 posting on Twitter, said the troops from Persian Gulf nations would remain in Bahrain as a counter to Iran.
“This Iranian policy is not acceptable anymore,” Hariri said in a speech at a conference in Beirut on April 7. “The gradual abduction of the Arab societies under any slogan will not be in the interest of Iran or Arab-Iranian relations.”
Bahrain yesterday ordered Iranian diplomat Heget Elah Rahmani to leave the country in 72 hours over alleged ties to a spy network operating in Kuwait, the official Bahrain News Agency said.
Iran’s Foreign Minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, in his own letter to Ban on April 15, said his government was concerned about “apartheid-like” discrimination of the Shiite minority and repression of protests. He appealed for UN Security Council intervention to halt the violence.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva in Washington at email@example.com