Gulf Tensions Continue to Fester in Bahrain
Bahrain remains the focal point of Gulf Shiite-Sunni tensions; suspends joint business councils with Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon over "interference."
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 5/26/2011, 6:44 PM / Last Update: 5/26/2011, 6:51 PM
Bahrain's Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) on Tuesday suspended joint business councils with Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon, Gulf News reports.
"We decided to freeze the joint councils as senior officials from these countries kept issuing statements that could not be accepted or tolerated and that clashed with the principles and values of good neighborhood [sic] and political relations," the BCCI said.
The move underscores continued tensions between the six-member, Arab Sunni-ruled Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Shiite-Persian Iran, whom GCC members accuse of meddling in their internal affairs.
Bahrain, a GCC member, has been at the center of a rhetorical shooting war with Iran, and Hizbullah-ruled Lebanon, since GCC Peninsula Shield forces were brought in to quell unrest by the Sunni-monarchy's Shiite majority. This occurred after riots broke out earlier this year. Hizbullah is widely regarded as being an Iranian proxy.
"Iran's flagrant interference in Bahrain's internal affairs has been through the media mobilization against Bahrain and the diplomatic moves that targeted Manama and the other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) capitals. Some parties in Lebanon have also worked on creating chaos, boosting tension and sowing divisions between Bahrainis," BCCI said
Bahrain, at the center of Shia-Sunni tensions in the region, canceled flights to Lebanon earlier this year, and has accused Iran and Hizbullah of training agents provocateurs to stir up unrest in the tiny island kingdom. Bahrain's foreign minister also labelled Hizbullah a terrorist group earlier this year. Such accusations are controversial in Gulf Arab states.
The GCC is working towards the formation of a unified diplomatic and military confederation to serve as ballast against Iran's influence in the region, as well as the incorporation of Jordan and Morocco, which would combine all eight Arab monarchies under one umbrella - and put the GCC on Israel's eastern border.
Iraq, which has to date been uninvolved in the ongoing Shia-Sunni saber-rattling in the Gulf, has a Shiite minority with significant political influence in Iraq's US-sponsored, post-Saddam Hussein government.