Disturbing Tendencies

  • 16 July 2007

Despite continuing efforts to build trust between GCC States and Iran at various levels, some elements seem intent on undermining the relations and on planting seeds of discord and suspicion on both sides. Contrary to ongoing efforts at forging strong Gulf-Iranian relationship, there are those who insist on spoiling it by issuing threats and reminding of past disputes, which have been long-forgotten and are buried deep in the pages of history.

A recent article by editor-in-chief of Iran’s Keihan newspaper Hussain Shariat-Madari claims, “Bahrain was an Iranian province.” This is a clear example of forces seeking to foment tensions between Iran and its neighbors. These forces intermittently raise their heads and come up with strange and untenable theories. For example, Madari’s article comes after a long series of official visits between both sides and the initiation of a positive trend in mutual relations. Nothing in recent Gulf-Iranian or Bahrain-Iranian relations could have possibly prompted or justified the claims made in the said article.

While Madari’s article has raised many eyebrows, the reaction it received in certain quarters of the Iranian media is even more astonishing. Instead of denouncing the article, some media outlets have defended its contents and some have even added to its claims. One newspaper strongly criticized the GCC and went so far as to issue a threat to all the states in the region, by noting that the Gulf political map might soon change. Meanwhile, Keihan stood by Madari’s allegations and even supported them. On the other hand, Iran’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Manushahr Muttaki, during his recent visit to Manama, affirmed his country’s respect for Bahrain’s sovereignty and independence. An official from the same ministry stressed that Madari’s statements did not reflect Iran’s official views. Notwithstanding the importance of the official position, claims such as those made by Madari have the potential to undermine the improving relations between Iran and its neighbors. They would also hamper any official moves on either side and strip them of their significance, given the frequency of these claims. For instance, the controversial article comes on the heels of a series of threats issued by former Iranian Minister of Defense Ali Shamkhani, and Chairman of the Consultative Council Haddad Adel to Gulf countries. It also comes after a strong Iranian reaction the latest stance taken by a GCC Ministerial Council’s meeting, which asserted that the islands of Greater and Lesser Tunb and Abu Mussa were the rightful property of the United Arab Emirates.

Those who are reviving ancient animosities are only dealing a big blow to the region’s security and stability. They should be prevented from spreading their influence, as they seek to place a highly important strategic region of the world in the grip of tensions and disorder.