When the Saudi-led coalition began their air campaign earlier this year against Iran’s proxies in Yemen, many of us concluded that it would only be a matter of time before Iran sought to retaliate by instigating terrorist attacks in Bahrain.
Why? Because those who study regional politics will confirm that this is the way Iran has always behaved; seeing the region as a chessboard where it ruthlessly tries to seize the advantage wherever it can.
We should be thankful that Iran has so far failed, thanks to a large degree to the vigilance of the Bahraini security services.
In late March, a suitcase of explosives being transported from Iraq, headed for Bahrain, were impounded on the Saudi causeway and a month later more explosives were confiscated on the same causeway, this time headed from Bahrain to Saudi Arabia.
In both cases evidence linked the smuggling attempts to Iran, such as the Iranian phone chips found in the possession of those arrested. The explosives were remarkably similar to materials which were impounded in late 2013 being smuggled by boats from Iran to Bahrain.
Over this period there have been a number of other arrests and foiled attempts, culminating in the recent arrests of several members of the Al-Ashtar Brigades, a Bahraini terrorist cell which has claimed responsibility for a number of terrorist incidents and attacks on police, such as the bombing in March 2014 which left three policemen dead.
As a result, 12 members of the Al-Ashtar Brigades are now detained. However, the group’s two leaders, Ahmed Yousif Sarhan, and Jassim Ahmed Abdullah are in Iran – an indication of the guiding role Iran plays in coordinating the activities of these terrorists.
According to official statements, Al-Ashtar’s Iran-based leadership facilitated travel for other members of the group to Iraq, for training in weapons use, hostage-taking and bomb-making with members of Hezbollah.
On one hand, this demonstrates that Iran remains serious about seeking to undermine stability in Bahrain – on the other, this shows Bahrain’s resilience in responding to the terrorist threat.
With the dismantling of Al-Ashtar Brigades, many of the militant and Iran-proxy terrorist groups in Bahrain, like the 14 February Coalition, are reportedly no-longer active, and much of their foreign-trained membership is in jail.
We can be certain that Iran is continuing to try and identify Bahraini militants which it can offer to support to, so the threat remains. However, the current pattern seems to be that the Bahraini authorities are dealing with these terrorists faster than they can receive training and experience and achieve their goals of harming the public. We can all agree that this is definitely a good thing.