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Bahraini – Iranian tensions intensify | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Dammam, Asharq Al-Awsat – Bahrain yesterday summoned the Iranian charge d’affaires to Manama, Mahdi Islami, to protest against Iranian claims that Bahrain had tasked Iran with mediating in its internal affairs. The Bahraini authorities described the Iranian allegations as lies and fabrications.

Tensions between Manama and Tehran escalated after the Iranian charge d’affaires controversially met with top Bahraini Shiite cleric Sheikh Issa Qassim. Sheikh Issa Qassim, along with Iranian media, claimed this meeting had taken place in the context of an official Bahraini request to Tehran – submitted during the Mecca Summit last August – for Iranian mediation to resolve the Bahraini crisis.

Bahrain strongly denied making any such request, with Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid Bin Ahmed al-Khalifa calling on the Shiite cleric not to repeat false Iranian statements to ensure that he cannot be accused of working for a foreign power. He stressed that Manama had not asked anybody to mediate in Bahraini affairs, confirming that he had repeatedly complained of such claims to Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi and Iranian charge d’affaires to Manama Mahdi Islami.

The Bahraini Foreign Minister also asserted that any discussions regarding Bahraini internal affairs must be between national partners as part of open and serious national dialogue, not with foreign diplomats behind closed doors. In this regard, the Bahraini Foreign Ministry on Monday summoned Iranian charge d’affaires Mahdi Islami to protest against interference in its internal affairs. A government statement revealed that Islami had been summoned over Iran’s “deliberately attributing false information to Bahraini officials and promoting it in the media” and “through ties and contacts with specific groups in the Bahraini community.”

For his part, Ambassador Hamad al-Amer, Bahraini Foreign Ministry Undersecretary for Regional and GCC Affairs, informed Asharq Al-Awsat that this meeting was limited to the issue of the Iranian media repeating the false claim that Manama had requested that Tehran mediate in its internal affairs.

Al-Amer stressed that “we did not discuss the meetings conducted by the Iranian delegations with some opposition figures…the meeting was solely regarding the broadcast of false information that Bahrain had asked Iranian officials to mediate in its internal affairs.”

The Bahraini Foreign Ministry spokesman told Asharq Al-Awsat that he did not thing it likely that Tehran would respond to Manama’s call for it to stop interfering in its internal affairs. He said “Iran is very far from taking such a step and there is much evidence of its actions.”

Ambassador Al-Amer met with the Iranian charge d’affaires in Manama on Monday and expressed Bahrain’s extreme displeasure with regards to Iran putting forward this false information. He asserted that such action only serves to incite sectarian sedition and division in Bahraini society.

The Bahraini Foreign Ministry Undersecretary for Regional and GCC Affairs told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Iranian media’s claims that Bahrain had asked Tehran to mediate in its internal affairs is nothing more than “lies and fabrication”, adding that Manama had previously complained to Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi over this issue on more than one occasion.

The Bahraini ambassador also revealed that Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid Bin Ahmed al-Khalifa had strongly rejected this claim during his latest meeting with Salehi in Tehran, as well as during a meeting with Iranian charge d’affaires to Bahrain in Manama on 13 September.

Al-Amer said that Bahrain’s fixed and immovable position is not to accept any foreign intervention in its internal affairs, whether in terms of mediation or anything else. He asserted that “the Kingdom of Bahrain has not asked for any form of mediation in its internal affairs from the Iranian [Foreign] Minister as this represents an encroachment on its national sovereignty and stability as well as its dealings with its own citizens.”

He called on the Iranian charge d’affaires to stop interfering in Bahraini internal affairs, particularly in terms of inciting sectarian sedition and division via media and contact with certain forces in Bahraini society. Bahraini Ambassador al-Amer also called on Iranian charge d’affaires to Manama, Mahdi Islami to abide by the rules of diplomacy and international relations and the principles of good neighborliness, not to mention the UN charter which rejects and condemns any foreign interference in a sovereign country’s internal affairs, as well as political or religious or media incitement.

In the context of preparing the ground for national dialogue, Bahraini Minister of Justice, Sheikh Khalid Bin Ali al-Khalifa, revealed that dialogue with political parties is ongoing and that the Bahraini government is sincere in looking for common ground to reach a political solution. He stressed that what is happening in Bahrain is not a crisis but rather a complication, saying that the political situation has reached a standstill.