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Bahrain’s opposition divided on Iran | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Manama, Asharq Al-Awsat – Senior figures within Bahrain’s Democratic Alliance have revealed that the joint statement issued by the opposition coalition condemning Iranian interference in Bahrain’s internal affairs, was not endorsed by a number of other Bahraini political opposition parties. The Democratic Alliance, which recently issued a statement condemning Iranian interference in Bahraini affairs, is made up of three opposition parties, namely the Waad party [National Democratic Action Society, the al-Minbar party [Progressive Democratic Tribune], and the al-Qawmi party [National Democratic Alliance Society]. The senior figures within Bahrain’s Democratic Alliance coalition stressed that this statement was not endorsed by the 4 other prominent Bahraini opposition parties, who are members of the [Shiite] Wefaq National Islamic Society bloc, saying that “[this statement] may differ from the viewpoint of other [opposition] groups.”

Observers have stressed that this difference in opinion between the Democratic Alliance and the Wefaq bloc – which is the largest Shiite political grouping in Bahrain – publicly reveals, and for the first time, a change in the attitude and policy of the Bahraini political opposition with regards to the recent events in the country.

Dr. Hassan al-Aali, the leader of the al-Qawmi party, which is part of the Democratic Alliance, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the statement issued by this political coalition does not reflect a division “because the three parties [that make up the Democratic Alliance] represent all sections of Bahrain’s society, whether they are Sunnis or Shiites.” He added that “there have been sectarian fears and misunderstanding with regards to the position of some groups towards the situation in Bahrain, and the picture has not been clear, particularly with regards to Iran’s blatant interference in Bahrain’s internal affairs. Therefore we had no choice but to announce our position to send a message to the nation that we do not believe in what some other [oppositional] groups believe.”

He stressed to Asharq Al-Awsat that “we [the Democratic Alliance] believe that the entry of the Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC] Peninsula Shield force occurred according to legal and legitimate agreements between the GCC states, and that this took place within the framework of the fraternity of the Gulf States, and our common destiny.”

Dr. al-Aali also pointed out that Tehran had attempted to exploit the legitimate demands [for reform] of the people of Bahrain, in order to interfere in Bahrain’s internal affairs and draw attention away from the internal situation in Iran. He also told Asharq Al-Awsat that the al-Qawmi party has also considered that Tehran was also trying to use Bahrain as a Bargaining chip regarding its nuclear ambitions, and also in an attempt to extend its regional influence.

Al-Aali said that “we completely reject Iranian interference in our affairs, and Tehran must stop its brutal response to the demands of its people. Iran should focus on its own internal affairs rather than involving itself in the internal affairs of GCC states.”

Dr. Hassan al-Aali also told Asharq Al-Awsat that “this statement was not put before the other [opposition] groups.” He added that “we believed it was important to issue a statement such as this and take a position supporting national unity, issuing a calm and rational response to the people regarding their demands.”

Al-Aali also acknowledged the importance of opposition parties reviewing their position in light of the recent events in Bahrain, telling Asharq Al-Awsat that “I acknowledge that we, as a political movement, made mistakes, we opened the way for escalation and extremism, and the raising of slogans that are rejected politically, as well as by the public.” He added that “these slogans forcibly seized the Bahraini street, and things took a direction that we, along with the Bahraini government, find unacceptable.”

For his part, Ibrahim Kamal al-Din, a member of the central committee of the Waad party, which is also a member of the Democratic Alliance, revealed that “this tripartite alliance was established around a year ago, and it is important for us to be part of a larger coalition. We are seeking to promote national unity, and we have made many concessions for the sake of the unity of this country.”

He added that “it was very important for the Waad party as part of the Democratic Alliance – to issue this statement, particularly in light of the attacks of the homeland” adding that this has noting to do with “forming consensus or causing division.”

Al-Din also said that “we, as a [secular] democratic movement, find ourselves being accused by the other sectarian [political] parties. All parties accuse us of being controlled by other parties.”

As for the reason behind this statement, he said that “there are differences of opinion that required us to clarify our positions, particularly with regards to the Iranian statement.”

He stressed that “the situation required the issuance of a distinct and independent statement [from the other oppositional groups]” adding that “the Wefaq group also issued a statement via its leader Sheikh Ali Salman.”

The Waad party senior figure also said that “we, as a political movement, wanted to inform the Bahraini street that we are above sectarianism, and we have a huge stake in confronting this, whilst we have also paid the price for all the sectarian conspiracies that have stuck Bahrain.”

Ibrahim Kamal al-Din also stressed that “now is not the time for [political] score settling, for what is important now four our party is to get out of this situation that the country is facing without being biased towards one party at the expense of another, rather we will remain on good terms with all the present sides.”

He added “we, in the Waad party, have yet to announce our clear position in all its details regarding what has happening [in Bahrain], but we have an opinion that we will announce to the public once the country has emerged from this crisis.”

Al-Din also said that “the Democratic Alliance agrees with the other parties on the broad lines, whilst the opinions put forward to the Crown Prince are [also] agreed upon, although there are differences on the ceiling of demands, and differences in viewpoint [with the other opposition bloc].”

In related news, Dr. Salah Ali Mohamed, Chairman of the Bahraini parliamentary Foreign Affairs, Defense, and National Security Committee announced Bahrain’s comprehensive rejection of Iranian interference in the country’s internal affairs, stressing that Bahraini sovereignty is a red-line that must not be transgressed.

Commenting on the statement issued by the Iranian Shura Council’s National Security and Foreign Policy committee, Mohamed stressed that legislative institutes, such as the one which issued the Iranian statement, should be the most concerned about respecting laws, and not violating them. He said that the Iranian Shura Council committee’s statement represented an explicit transgression of international rules and conventions and the UN charter. He also said that this statement was contrary to Islamic principles, and a violation to the principle of good neighborly relations.

Dr. Mohamed also condemned the Iranian statement regarding its comments on the GCC, and the deployment of the Peninsula Shield force to Bahrain, stressing that this was welcomed by the leadership, government, and people of Bahrain, and took place according to international conventions. The Bahraini official called on Tehran to move away from issuing statements such as this, which do not serve the desires of the GCC state to achieve regional security and stability, and good relations with the surrounding region.