Bahrain on Collision Course with Iran, Alerts Neighbors
Tehran is in full momentum of a drive to make sure the huge arms deals the United States has contracted with Saudi Arabia ($60 billion) and Iraq ($13 billion) to defend themselves against Iran arrive too late to stall the Islamic Republic's campaign of expansion through the Persian Gulf region.
The new systems will only be operable in three to five years after Saudi and Iraqi forces undergo extensive training.
Tuesday, Sept. 14, a bomb blast damaged four police cars in the Hamad City suburb of the Bahraini capital Manama without causing casualties. It is under investigation as a terrorist attack.
Last Wednesday, Sept. 8, security forces foiled a plot to set off car bombs at what the authorities described as "vital sites" in Bahrain. Two people were arrested "for planning, preparing and starting to arm cars with explosive devices as part of a terrorist plan aimed at destabilizing Bahrain" by attacking "ten well-chosen locations," an official said. The plot was timed for Eid al-Fitr, which began Friday – ten days after Bahrain charged 23 Shiite activists with forming a "terror network" aimed at toppling the Sunni-dominated government.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Persian Gulf and counterterrorism sources report these events are just the tip of the iceberg. Since early this year, Iran has been building its campaign of subversion against the fabulously wealthy Persian Gulf emirates, block by block.
First time a minister sacked since 1971
In March, Manama exposed an international money-laundering ring serving Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) in which Kuwaiti citizens were involved. Bahrain's self-proclaimed king, Sheikh Hama bin Isa al Khalifa issued a state decree relieving Minister of State Monasoor bin Rajab of his official duties on suspicion of abetting this network. It was first time since the sheikdom attained independence in 1971 that a high-ranking minister has been sacked and faces prosecution for alleged criminal corruption charges.
What it meant was that the IRGC had penetrated Bahrain's governing hierarchy, one of the Persian Gulf's political and financial elites.
Two months later, in early May, an Iranian spy ring was uncovered in Kuwait. Saudi Arabia's interior minister Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz brought this out in the open at a Gulf security meeting in Riyadh on May 5. He informed the Gulf Cooperation Council interior ministers that Kuwait had managed to "break down" a cell connected to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The IRGC shot back with a counter-allegation of an attempt by the Zionist media and its proxies to spread phobia against its organization.
In the third week of August, the Bahrain police arrested 250 Shiites on suspicion of belonging to terrorist cells set for activation by Tehran in the event of a US or Israeli attack on its nuclear facilities. Bahrain's security service alerted colleagues in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and fellow-Gulf states to the hundreds of armed terrorist cells poised for sabotage operations in their countries if Iran was attacked.
Iranian cells trained to fight special forces
According to Gulf intelligence sources, members of these cells have received special training in fighting special forces and riot police. Kuwait alone has between 40 and 50 such groups. Their campaign is planned to start off with peaceful demonstrations denouncing the aggression against Iran and tip over into increasingly violent actions such as torching institutions and businesses, blowing up electrical transformers and other infrastructure and raids on shopping centers to generate public disorder.
The cells represent the large population section which is made up of a motley assortment of foreign expatriates, wanted men, immigrants and drifters from countries around the Persian Gulf. Members of the captured cell admitted to receiving small and medium firearms from Iran.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Gulf sources disclose that some Saudi and Gulf intelligence circles are blaming the upsurge of Iranian subversive activity in their region on the Obama administration's failure to respond to the sabotage of the Japanese tanker M STAR by Tehran in the Straits of Hormuz on July 28. Some said that after they got away scot-free with striking a tanker loaded with oil on a maritime superhighway, the Iranians decided they had a free hand to operate at will in the Gulf – a region which holds nearly 50 percent of the world's total oil reserves and 36 percent of its proven gas resources.
Sophisticated, expensive American hardware is certainly welcome, they say, but Washington must understand that it is useless for fighting Iranian terrorist, subversive and espionage rings. Neither can these wonderful weapons save the politicians, army officers and key media figures targeted by Tehran for assassination in the Gulf States and Lebanon. Iran will win the day long before the mighty weapons arrive, they say.
Why was Bahrain singled out?
Tehran singled out the small Bahraini archipelago of 33 islands and its ruler as the focus of its subversive operations for good reason.
The Shiites are the largest community of Bahrain, constituting a majority of 70 percent of the population of 1.3 million. Although more than 80 percent of the labor force, the number of Shiites working for the country's largest employer, the security forces, has since Iran's 1979 revolution, been slashed to 3-5 percent, down from holding most of the non-officer positions.
This situation provides Iranian undercover recruitment with very fertile ground.
A second reason is the presence of US Fifth Fleet headquarters at the American naval base in Bahrain with responsibility for a broad strategic area stretching from the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean, including the Arabian Sea and the entire Persian Gulf.
The bulk of US naval and air strength against Iran is therefore positioned in Bahrain.
Any political change in Bahrain, be it the weakening of the Royal Family or, in a more extreme scenario, its overthrow by the Shiite majority, would shake the foundations of American influence in the Persian Gulf, and send severe shock waves around its neighbors, especially Saudi Arabia and Kuwait which, too, have large Shiite populations.
Today the monarchy is acting to dilute the Shiite majority by extending citizenship to as many as 100,000 Sunnis from Yemen, Syria, Jordan and Pakistan and offering them employment in the security services. This policy has not only enraged unemployed Shiites, but also angered local Sunnis who are hard pressed to find work.