Bahrain gave its sternest warning yet to Iran to keep out of its affairs, saying an escalation in the two countries’ dispute over Bahrain’s recent crackdown on political unrest could even lead to “conflict.”
The threat from Iran could increase “to any level” at a time of deep divisions between Iran and its Arab neighbors in the Persian Gulf region, Bahrain’s foreign minister Sheik Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa said in an interview.
“They could make mistakes in causing a conflict,” Sheik Khalid said. “The campaign against us from Iran at this stage is political, but it could have a different posture at any time,” he added.Iran has denounced Bahrain’s decision to allow Saudi troops into the country as it moved last week to suppress a mainly Shiite protest movement calling for the downfall of the monarchy.
After the arrival of 1,000 Saudi Arabian troops and 500 police from the United Arab Emirates, Sunni-ruled Bahrain launched a violent crackdown, driving demonstrators from the streets of the capital and rounding up the mainly Shiite opposition leaders in dawn raids on their homes.
In a reference to the antigovernment protests that have taken place in Iran, Sheik Khalid said the government in Tehran had problems of its own. The foreign minister strongly denied suggestions that Saudi troops were involved in the crackdown on demonstrators, and said their job was to protect Bahrain from “external” threats while the Bahraini police and the army cleared the protesters from the streets. “Our back needed to be protected,” Sheik Khalid said.
He said the unrest in Bahrain stemmed from a sectarian divide between Sunnis and Shiites on the island, countering the protesters, who say the uprising reflects the demands of all Bahrainis for more representative government.