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Bahrain’s confusing Israel policy 6, October 2008

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Bahrain, Middle East.
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Bahrain has no especially warm feelings for Iran, yet this has become ever more apparent in recent weeks. The Bahrain Foreign Minister called for some kind of regional grouping which would include Israel to meet to discuss regional issues. This, however, would involve recognising Israel (one would think…), something many in the region do not want. Indeed, this created issues within Bahrain with its significant Shiite, Iranian-supporting ‘minority’. Nevertheless, this is not the only sign of Bahrain’s attempts to discuss the thorny question of Israel. The Crown Prince himself was reported to have met Israeli officials in the World Economic forum summits in 2000 and 2003 as well as Sheikh Khalad’s meeting with his opposite Israeli number at the UN in 2007. Furthermore, Bahrain is a staunch US ally, hosting the US fifth fleet, among other examples of close ties.

This call for recognising and the setting up of a discussion group was, unsurprisingly, met with a definite no by Iran. Yet in a twist to this story, a Bahrain MP has spoken out to firstly castigate Iran for inconsistent policies and secondly ‘clarify’ the Bahraini statement by insisting that such a proposal would not – ipso facto – lead to a normalisation of relations. In short, there is no way of knowing what Bahrain actually intends to do in the near future. At their highest levels, they apparently seek some kind of relationship with Israel, yet are thoroughly hamstrung by Parliamentary opposition. There seems to be neither an easy nor swift resolution in sight for these complex matters.