In mid-June, yet another seizure was announced of explosives originating from Iran and destined to be used in attacks in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
We are seeing an escalating pattern of Iranian attempts to smuggle weapons and explosives into Saudi Arabia and Bahrain with the intention of staging attacks and undermining stability.
It can only be assumed that Iran is using such terrorist tactics to retaliate for the defeats its Houthi proxies have incurred in Yemen as a result of airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition.
A 6th June raid on a house in the Bahraini village of Dar Kulaib resulted in the seizure of weapons including large quantities of C4 explosives, detonators and advanced circuitry. The location of the house was revealed by an operative who was working for a cell formed by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards with the aim of launching attacks.
Bahrain’s Chief of Police Tariq Al Hassan told the media: “The professionalism with which these seized materials are assembled and concealed is a clear indication of international support and sponsorship”.
In late March, a suitcase of explosives being transported from Iraq, headed for Bahrain, was impounded on the Saudi causeway. A month later more explosives were confiscated in the same location, this time headed from Bahrain to Saudi Arabia.
Investigators noted the evidence linking these incidents to Iran; such as the Iranian phone chips and currency in the possession of those arrested. The explosives were similar to materials impounded in late 2013 being smuggled by boats from Iran to Bahrain.
Iranian links were also cited after the recent arrests of several members of the Al-Ashtar Brigades, a terrorist cell which has claimed responsibility for a number of terrorist incidents and attacks on Bahraini police, such as the bombing in March 2014 which left three policemen dead.
The two leaders of Al-Ashtar remain in Iran, from where they had facilitated the travel of group members to Iraq, for training in weapons use, hostage-taking and bomb-making under the tutelage of Hezbollah.
While we can applaud the vigilance of the Bahraini and Saudi security services, it is clear that Iran will continue to export weapons to militants in the GCC and eventually it expects to succeed.
Throughout 2013 and 2014 there was a series of incidents where Bahraini militants were killed while transporting and manufacturing explosives. These occurrences indicated that at the time militant groups lacked the skills and expertise to stage sophisticated attacks.
We should be concerned that despite recent arrests, small numbers of militants are still succeeding in travelling to Iran, Iraq and Lebanon to receive training at the hands of Hezbollah and the Republican Guards. Furthermore, the recent seizures prove that the equipment they are receiving from Iran is increasingly sophisticated and lethal.
The militants planning such attacks are not interested in dialogue and political reform, these are radicalized individuals being paid to do Iran’s bidding in undermining stability in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia and it is right that they are dealt with severely and that the growing threat is taken seriously.
The seizure of weapons in as small Bahraini village needs to be seen in the regional context of Iran’s use of proxies in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere to aggressively further its foreign policy goals.
America and the West also needs to acknowledge this Iranian threat to regional stability and use their geopolitical might to force Iran to rein in its activities. A failure to assertively stand up to the Islamic Republic is effectively a message that it can get away with its regional meddling and that its support for terrorism is cost free.