The supreme leader’s representative at daily Kayhan newspaper has repeated a controversial statement from 10 years ago insisting that that Iran “owns” Bahrain and that its people feel separated from their motherland.
Fars news agency, run by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, cited Hossein Shariatmadari as saying on February 8, “Once we wrote that Bahrain is ours, many made lots of noises. Saudi Muftis, who say too much nonsense, issued a death fatwa against us.”
While reiterating that Bahrain is for Iran and Bahrainis feel separated from Iran, Shariatmadari concluded, “That’s why, after so many years and using their utmost force, they [the rulers of Bahrain] have failed to suppress roaring Bahrainis.”
Shariatmadari’s latest comments echoed sentiments he expressed in a Kayhan editorial 10 years ago. At the time, it triggered a controversy that forced Iran’s foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki, to visit Bahrain’s capital, Manama.
“Bahrain was a part of Iran’s territory,” Shariatmadari had stressed in his editorial, adding, “But, in a collusion between the Shah [Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, former king of Iran] and the UK and U.S. administrations, Bahrain was separated from its motherland. Today, one of the main demands of Bahrainis is returning the island to its mainland, the Islamic Iran.”
The editorial triggered a wave of criticism, and many Bahrainis protested in front of Tehran’s embassy in Manama.
Immediately after Mottaki’s visit, Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa implicitly told reporters that his Iranian counterpart was in Manama to apologize for the editorial.
Six months later, then-President Mahmud Ahmadinejad also traveled to Manama and stayed there for several hours.
Bahrain used to be a part of the Persian Empire but was captured by the Bani Utbah clan in 1783 and has since been ruled by Al Khalifa dynasty.
However, at least on paper, Iran kept its claim on Bahrain until 1970 when Pahlavi accepted a referendum to be held for deciding Bahrain’s future. The UN-sponsored referendum eventually led to declaring Bahrain as an independent emirate in 1971.
In 2002, Bahrain changed its formal name to the Kingdom of Bahrain.
Bahraini Shi’ite fundamentalists led a failed coup against the ruler of Bahrain in 1981. Since then, confrontations between Shi’ite fundamentalists and the Sunni king of Bahrain have never died down. Bahrain maintains that Iran is behind the unrest.
However, Shariatmadari’s latest speech coincided with the arrest of four men suspected of orchestrating a blast that ripped through a state-run oil pipeline in November.
A statement by Bahrain’s Interior Ministry said two of those arrested received "intensive training" in IRGC camps in Iran. Tehran has repeatedly denied allegations that it supports Shi’ite insurgents in Bahrain.