London, Asharq Al-Awsat- In a statement to Asharq Al-Awsat, Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmad Al Khalifah declared that his country will not permit the United States to use Bahraini territories to launch a military strike at “any country whatsoever,” noting that the presence of a US military base in Bahraini territory does not mean that Manama will allow he use of this base to launch an offensive on “Iran or on any other country.”
Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad said last week that “Iran’s brothers and friends in the Gulf states will not allow the use of their territories to strike at Iran.” He added: “The leaders of those states are more aware of the Israeli and US schemes in the region; and although we rule out the possibility of war, we are ready for all eventualities.”
The Bahraini foreign minister explained his country’s position regarding the presence of US military bases, noting that the agreements that Manama signed with Washington “are defensive agreements first and foremost.” We will not accept the use of our territories for launching offensives on the territories of others.” He added that the agreements that his country signed with a number of countries “many decades ago” were defensive and did not include provisions for the use of the Bahraini territories to attack other states. He added: “In fact, there are no offensive weapons in these military bases in the first place.”
Western nations are extremely concerned over Iran’s nuclear program, asserting that this program is intended for military use, whereas Iran maintains that its program is purely peaceful.
The Bahraini foreign minister, who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat in a telephone interview, said that “what concerns Bahrain is not to see a new war in the region.” He added: “We have been exhausted by the wars that the region faced in the past three decades. The directives of His Majesty the King (Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah, the monarch of Bahrain) provide that Bahraini territories will only be used to defend Bahraini territories and in accordance with the mechanisms of joint action with our brothers in the Gulf Cooperation Council’s states.”
While the Bahraini foreign minister stressed his country’ position rejecting the use of its territories for any possible strike at Tehran, he said that his country will not just look on in the case it comes under any attack. He said that the defense agreements signed with what he called friendly countries will be used to deter any offensive to which the Kingdom of Bahrain may be subjected.
Asharq Al-Awsat asked the Bahraini foreign minister whether his country gave assurances to Tehran that the US military base in Bahrain will not be used in any possible military strike against Iran, He said: “Yes, on all my visits to Tehran, I assured them of Bahrain’s position, which basically rejects any military strike against Iran, and that Manama will not accept the use of its territories for attacks on other countries.”
The GCC states have constantly affirmed that they reject any military strike against Iran, and that they prefer a diplomatic solution to Iran’s nuclear program. In statements by more than one official, Tehran repeatedly said that its rockets will reach all the [Arabian] Gulf cities if Iran comes under US military offensive. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard warned against any inspection of Iranian ships in the gulf, threatening a crushing retaliation.”
The Bahraini foreign minister reasserted that the aim of the military agreements that his country signed with Western countries “was and still is safeguarding the security and safety of the Gulf as an important maritime route and a key artery of utmost importance to global economy and to oil-consuming nations, which want to be assured that oil will reach them without any difficulties.” He added: “Were it not for the presence of international forces in the region, the situation in the Gulf would have become similar to that of the Gulf of Aden, which lacks the basic factors of security and stability.”
Asked if the Gulf states’s stand is consistent with that of Bahrain, the Bahraini foreign minister said: “The Gulf states’ stand is clear; they are opposed to any tension in the region, and they do not want to see new wars that would bring us back to the past cycle of violence.”
The US Fifth Fleet headquarters in Bahrain supervises operations in the Arabian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman, the Red Sea, and part of the Indian Ocean. Approximately 3,000 US personnel are stationed in Bahrain ranging from marines, infantry troops, and army based in the al-Jufayr Military Base near Manama. The base includes the US Fifth Fleet Command. The troops have access to the Salman Port, the Sheikh Isa Air Base, and Al-Muharraq Airport. Under normal circumstances, the Fifth Fleet has approximately 15 vessels, including an aircraft carrier. It should be recalled that the agreement on the use of this base was signed in 1948.