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Bahrain Announces Maritime Summit To Counter Iran Threats

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, right, shakes hands with Bahrain Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, Wednesday, July 17, 2019, during their meeting at the State Department in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

The small island nation of Bahrain in the southern part of the Persian Gulf is preparing itself to host an international summit this fall on regional maritime and aviation threats posed by the Islamic Republic of Iran.

U.S. Special Representative for Iran, Brian Hook, and Bahraini Foreign Minister, Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al Khalifa, announced the summit in Washington on July 17. The gathering will likely be held in late October and attended by the representatives of 65 countries, they said.

The conference will be the follow-up of a significant U.S.-led Middle East conference that was attended by dozens of nations in Warsaw, Poland, last February.

Speaking at an event hosted by the Atlantic Council, Sheikh Khalid said, "The Warsaw global conference created momentum. It also showed clarity in our views regarding many matters in the region, especially when we came to talk about the threat from [Iran] … and we didn't want to lose the momentum."

The Warsaw conference triggered a bitter dispute between Poland and the Islamic Republic to the extent that Iranian authorities deplored it as an anti-Iran gathering.

The U.S. State Department dismissed the accusation, insisting that the conference was held to study peace and security in the Middle East.

Nonetheless, there were several direct references to the Islamic Republic during the conference.

The same 65 countries that took part in the conference in Warsaw, including the Middle East countries, and European representatives, will be asked to attend the gathering in Bahrain, Hook told The National.

However, he noted that the invitations had not been sent out yet.

"The conference will aim to reach a common understanding on addressing the challenge posed by Iran," Sheikh Khalid said at the Atlantic Council in Washington.

Hook, for his part, highlighted the growing maritime threat in the Persian Gulf. At

least seven tankers have been attacked in the Persian Gulf since May.

Meanwhile, Sheikh Khalid maintained U.S. intelligence shared with Bahrain helped to prevent Iranian-sponsored attacks in the kingdom of Bahrain.

Iran's Islamic Revolution Guard Corps "has plotted to overthrow the government of Bahrain since 1981", he said.

"You see them in Syria, in Iraq, in Yemen, in eastern Saudi Arabia, and in Kuwait, a Hezbollah cell was arrested," Sheikh Khalid asserted, adding, "The U.S. has always been with us to stop malign Iranian activities, but these efforts intensified under the current administration."

Echoing President Trump's comments, Sheikh Khalid also insisted that Bahrain was not seeking regime change in Iran and Manama would take steps to improve relations if Tehran showed interest.

"What we are concerned with is the regime's behavior," Sheikh Khalid said. "If Iran takes one step forward, we will take two."

Referring to the U.S. plans to install surveillance and protection for ships passing through the Persian Gulf, Hook disclosed that Washington has already sent an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the region, adding, "the move has disrupted and deterred much of what we feared" with Iranian plots in the area.

Brian Hook will meet ambassadors on Friday to promote the U.S. plan to build a maritime coalition to deter further attacks on the oil tankers in the Persian Gulf.