At a meeting of the Joint Iran-Bahrain Commission late last month, Iran and Bahrain signed a memorandum of understanding that includes a wide range of sectors such as oil, security, and finance. In an e-mail interview, Mehran Kamrava, interim dean of Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service in Qatar and director of the Center for International and Regional Studies, explains the context of current Iran-Bahrain relations. To read Kamrava's interview on Iran-UAE relations, click here.
WPR: What is the current state of Iran-Bahrain diplomatic relations?
Mehran Kamrava: After some neglect of the importance of the GCC states in the first two to three years of his first term in office, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's administration has been keen to improve diplomatic and trade relations with the various states of the GCC, Bahrain included. There have been two areas of contention between Bahrain and Iran, although both have existed under the surface rather than as a pronounced feature of relations between the two countries. First, like the rest of the GCC, Bahrain is firmly under the protection of the U.S. security umbrella, being home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet and an important base for any potential U.S. military attack on Iran. Second, Bahrain has long had to contend with a tumultuous domestic political arena, with the country's Sunni monarchy lacking in popularity and widespread legitimacy among the island's majority Shiite population. Although evidence suggests that the popularity of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has been on the decline among Bahraini Shiites, the Bahraini government does, nonetheless, look with skepticism and suspicion toward its theocratic neighbor to the north.