A former Bahrain legislator and Palestine campaigner has warned that Iranian plans to dispatch a flotilla to Bahrain in show of solidarity with the “oppressed people” of the majority Shiite country would be considered an act of war if carried out.
Nasser Al Fadhala told Bahrain’s Gulf Daily News that it was unacceptable for Iran to use tactics with Bahrain similar to those used by human rights activists in trying to break the Israeli blockade on Gaza.
“They are using the same idea of sending an aid flotilla that was used last year in Gaza,” he said.
“The Iranian government should understand that Israel occupation has been for years, while Bahrain is a free and independent country,” Mr. Fadhala said.
“We want peace they (Iran) want war…Iran should stop interfering in our country's issues,” Mr. Fadhala said.
The head of the Shiite Iran’s Islamic Revolution Supporters Society, Mehdi Eghrarian, said the vessels will depart for Bahrain from the Southern Iranian port of Bushehr on Monday.
Mr. Eghrarian said the flotilla would represent an act of condemnation of Bahrain’s minority Sunni rulers for violently cracking down on a Shiite-led protest movement that began in mid-February 2011.
If the Iranians do indeed organize the flotilla, they would run the risk of encountering armed resistance from Bahraini and naval vessels supported by the six-national Gulf Cooperation Council, of which Bahrain is a member.
That, in turn, would raise the specter of a confrontation in the Gulf. And the situation would also pose questions about the role of the US Fifth Fleet, which is based in Bahrain.
The Shiite-led protesters in Bahrain are demanding a constitutional monarchy and protesting against the political naturalization of Sunni foreigners. Such naturalization, they say, is a way to tilt the kingdom’s demographics to reflect a Sunni majority, which the Shiites argue is far from Bahrain’s demographic reality.
In April 2011, the Gulf States postponed without setting a date the Arab League Summit in Baghdad due to Iraq’s backing of opposition protests in Bahrain.
According to the society’s head, the flotilla will be named after a female Bahraini poet who he says was “raped and killed” by Bahraini forces during the crackdown.
According to the AP the status of the woman, Ayat al-Ghermezi, could not be confirmed.
The Bahrain uprising has created triggered tremors elsewhere in the region.
Shiites in Iraq, Iran and Lebanon have shown solidarity with the Shiite-led Bahrain opposition.
In March, Bahrain expelled dozens of Shiite Lebanese for alleged ties to Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard after endorsement by the GCC to undertake such expulsion.
The Gulf Arab countries in the recent summit meeting in Riyadh continued their denunciation of Iranian intervention.
Bahraini King Hamad al-Khalifa has ordered an end a state of emergency by June 1 after imposing the measure in mid-March. Demonstrators want the king to introduce a constitutional monarchy that gives majority Shiites a fair representation in government.
Meanwhile, Iran’s foreign minister, Heidar Salehi, warned of “repercussions” if the situation in Bahrain did not improve.
One Gulf observer in Dubai said, “It seems to be the season for high political drama.”
(Mustapha Ajbail, an editor and writer at Al Arabiya English, can be reached at: Mustapha.email@example.com. Dina Al-Shibeeb, also an editor and writer at Al Arabiya English, can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org)