The militant group Hezbollah is actively plotting with the opposition in Bahrain to overthrow the country’s ruling family, the government said in a confidential report to the United Nations.
“Evidence confirms that Bahraini elements are being trained in Hezbollah camps specifically established to train assets from the Gulf,” the report reads. Bahrain has long made claims that Iran and Hezbollah have sought to fuel instability in the nation.
In the report sent to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Bahrain’s government claims Iranian-backed Hezbollah has been training opposition figures at its camps in Lebanon and Iran, in an effort to destabilize the Khalifa monarchy. The report also says the militant group has trained militants for activities in neighboring Gulf countries, according to diplomats who have reviewed it.
There is plenty of reason to treat these claims with skepticism. The monarchy that rules Bahrain is Sunni, while the majority of its Muslim subjects are Shi’ite. Religious parties have gained strength in the legislature, but more liberal and secular parties have considerable influence. The monarchy doesn’t necessarily sit well with any of them, and it’s certainly possible that the protests in the country are driven by home-grown fervor rather than foreign influences.
Still, Bahrain would be a strategic victory for Iran if a Shi’ite theocracy emerged that allied itself to Tehran. The mullahcracy in Iran has shown no particular reservation in using Hezbollah to undermine governments in the region, either through popular action or through terrorism. The Saudis became concerned enough to send 1000 troops to enforce a Bahraini decree of emergency rule last month, and the Saudis have the most to lose if Bahrain falls to Iranian intrigue.
The US would be worried as well. Bahrain isn’t as strategically important as the UAE, with its tip-of-the-spear positioning in the Straits of Hormuz, but it’s not insignificant either as a buffer for Saudi Arabia; it practically guards Ad Dammam and the road to Riyadh. Economically and especially in oil, Bahrain has significant importance for the US, as an Iranian-sponsored theocratic coup would further stress the international oil markets and put Iran in a much better position to dictate oil movements in the Persian Gulf.
Skepticism about the claims might be indicated, but don’t discount them entirely. Iran has waged a hegemonic campaign throughout the region, and this would be a significant victory if the Bahrainis are right.