Iran condemns Bahrain's plan to normalize ties with Israel

AP , Tuesday 15 Sep 2020

Iran condemns Bahrain
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa (right) on September 11, 2020, agreed to normalise diplomatic relations between the two countries. AFP - ABIR SULTAN,MANDEL NGA

Iran on Saturday strongly condemned Bahrain's plan to normalize relations with Israel, calling it a shameful and ignominious move by the Gulf Arab country.

Bahrain's announcement Friday followed a similar normalization agreement last month by the United Arab Emirates, a fellow U.S. ally. The two Arab nations' establishment of full relations with Israel is part of a broader push by the Trump administration find common ground with countries that share U.S. wariness of Iran. Tehran's arch rival Saudi Arabia may also be close to a deal.

In a statement, Iran's Foreign Ministry said Bahrain's normalization ``will remain in the historical memory of the oppressed and downtrodden people of Palestine and the world's free nations forever.''

Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard also denounced Bahrain's move using similar language, calling it a betrayal of the Palestinian people and a ``threat to security in West Asia and the Muslim world.''

The agreements by the UAE and now Bahrain are a setback for Palestinian leaders, who have urged Arab nations to withhold recognition until they have secured an independent state. The Palestinians have seen a steady erosion in once-unified Arab support _ one of the few cards they still held as leverage against Israel _ since President Donald Trump began pursuing an unabashedly pro-Israel agenda.

The Foreign Ministry statement also said Bahrain's government and the other supporting governments would be held accountable for any act by Israel that causes insecurity in the Persian Gulf region.

The island of Bahrain lies just off the coast of Saudi Arabia, and is among the world's smallest countries, only about 760 square kilometers (290 square miles). Bahrain's location in the Persian Gulf long has made it a trading stop and a naval defensive position. The island is home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet and a recently built British naval base.

Like Iran, Bahrain's population is majority Shiite, and the country has been ruled since 1783 by the Sunni Al Khalifa family.

Since Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution, Bahrain's rulers have blamed Iran for arming militants on the island. Iran denies the accusations. Bahrain's Shiite majority has accused the government of treating them like second-class citizens. The Shiites joined pro-democracy activists in demanding more political freedoms in 2011, as Arab Spring protests swept across the wider Middle East. Saudi and Emirati troops ultimately helped violently put down the demonstrations.

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