Bahrain in Iran's Sights

Ed Lasky
Iran is a revolutionary power and has been since the theocratic Shiite regime took over when the Shah fell from grace during the Carter Presidency. Emboldened by oil wealth, weakened autocracies on its borders, the fall of Saddam Hussein, who acted as a Sunni bulwark against the Shiites in Iran and Iraq, Iran is now in the hands of a President with messianic desires.

Iran is now an imperial power whose desire is to extend its hegemony across the region. We have seen it flex its muscle throughout area: in Lebanon, where it has sent weapons, personnel, and money to Hezbollah; in Syria, where it supports the Assad regime; in Iraq, where it supports terrorism and the power of political leaders associated with its own regime.

Now comes news of another front in the battle against the rise of the Shiite Crescent: Bahrain. Shiite-inspired rioting is spreading across the island nation -- one of our key allies in the region and the
home base for our Navy's Fifth Fleet This could be very perilous.

Bahrain is one of the smaller Gulf statelets (by the way, this area has always been considered by the Iranians as within their sphere of hegemony: they call it the Persian Gulf while the Arab regimes call it the Arab Gulf). Bahrain is the weak link in this string of states that lie on the Gulf and that border Saudi Arabia, having a population of only 700,000. Unlike the rest of the Arab states of the gulf, Bahrain has a majority Shiite population -- some rate it as high as 70% -- while being ruled by Sunni royalty.  There has been a history of riots by Shiites in Bahrain in the past; the death of  Bahrain's leading Shiite cleric at this time last year may have left a power vacuum being filled by Iranian-inspired and
funded radicals.

This island is not only strategically important for our Navy but it also produces a notable amount of oil and is a financial hub. Bahrain is joined to the Saudi Kingdom by a causeway and its rulers are alled with the Saudi rulers.The US has been sending naval patrols into the Gulf as a warning to Iran: some have proposed that a naval quarantine of refined oil into Iran might be one way to pressure Iran. Patrol of the gulf also acts as a shield to protect more moderate Sunni regimes from Iranian adventurism. American military forces inevitably act to restrain Iran, especially in light of its ongoing nuclear program. The loss of this Naval base would be a blow to American efforts to "contain" Iran.

Furthermore, the loss of Bahrain to the Shiite world would embolden Shiites in Kuwait (25% of the population) as well as the restless Shiites in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province which is the source of much of the Saudi oil production and export (though a crude oil pipeline is being built to divert some oil to less dangerous areas).

Keep a wary eye on Bahrain. This is but just one weak link in an area vital to the future of the world. Saudi Arabia is in the hands of an aging autocracy widely despised by its own people. Its overtures to Iran notwithstanding, the history of royal families in the Arab world is not a pretty one.

They have all fallen one by one by one.
Iran is a revolutionary power and has been since the theocratic Shiite regime took over when the Shah fell from grace during the Carter Presidency. Emboldened by oil wealth, weakened autocracies on its borders, the fall of Saddam Hussein, who acted as a Sunni bulwark against the Shiites in Iran and Iraq, Iran is now in the hands of a President with messianic desires.

Iran is now an imperial power whose desire is to extend its hegemony across the region. We have seen it flex its muscle throughout area: in Lebanon, where it has sent weapons, personnel, and money to Hezbollah; in Syria, where it supports the Assad regime; in Iraq, where it supports terrorism and the power of political leaders associated with its own regime.

Now comes news of another front in the battle against the rise of the Shiite Crescent: Bahrain. Shiite-inspired rioting is spreading across the island nation -- one of our key allies in the region and the
home base for our Navy's Fifth Fleet This could be very perilous.

Bahrain is one of the smaller Gulf statelets (by the way, this area has always been considered by the Iranians as within their sphere of hegemony: they call it the Persian Gulf while the Arab regimes call it the Arab Gulf). Bahrain is the weak link in this string of states that lie on the Gulf and that border Saudi Arabia, having a population of only 700,000. Unlike the rest of the Arab states of the gulf, Bahrain has a majority Shiite population -- some rate it as high as 70% -- while being ruled by Sunni royalty.  There has been a history of riots by Shiites in Bahrain in the past; the death of  Bahrain's leading Shiite cleric at this time last year may have left a power vacuum being filled by Iranian-inspired and
funded radicals.

This island is not only strategically important for our Navy but it also produces a notable amount of oil and is a financial hub. Bahrain is joined to the Saudi Kingdom by a causeway and its rulers are alled with the Saudi rulers.The US has been sending naval patrols into the Gulf as a warning to Iran: some have proposed that a naval quarantine of refined oil into Iran might be one way to pressure Iran. Patrol of the gulf also acts as a shield to protect more moderate Sunni regimes from Iranian adventurism. American military forces inevitably act to restrain Iran, especially in light of its ongoing nuclear program. The loss of this Naval base would be a blow to American efforts to "contain" Iran.

Furthermore, the loss of Bahrain to the Shiite world would embolden Shiites in Kuwait (25% of the population) as well as the restless Shiites in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province which is the source of much of the Saudi oil production and export (though a crude oil pipeline is being built to divert some oil to less dangerous areas).

Keep a wary eye on Bahrain. This is but just one weak link in an area vital to the future of the world. Saudi Arabia is in the hands of an aging autocracy widely despised by its own people. Its overtures to Iran notwithstanding, the history of royal families in the Arab world is not a pretty one.

They have all fallen one by one by one.