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Secret Talks between Bahrain and Iran Amid Iranian-Saudi Détente

2023-03-15 - 2:05 am

Bahrain Mirror: Secret talks between Iran and Bahrain have taken place in past months, informed sources in the region have told Amwaj.media, describing the engagement as involving "low-profile exchanges."

Speaking on condition of anonymity, he asserted that "after the reopening of the embassies in Tehran and Riyadh, there will after a short period of time also likely be a normalization between Iran and Bahrain." He added, "There is no serious [outstanding] issue between Iran and Bahrain."

The "low-profile exchanges" have not been held at the political level. Acting as an icebreaker, the engagement has instead been focused on "administrative and bureaucratic issues," the senior source asserted, saying that the conditions of respective diplomatic properties and assets have been addressed.

"I think that Bahrain is not an independent case. Without the approval of Saudi Arabia, nothing can be done between Iran and Bahrain. But now [following the Iranian-Saudi rapprochement], the Saudis have no more reservations," a senior source in the region asserted.

Given the announcement of an imminent resumption of diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, Manama will soon be the only Gulf Arab capital without an ambassador in Tehran. 

This comes amid indications of a warming of relations between the two neighbors. Bahrain's parliament speaker on Mar. 13 met with a visiting Iranian delegation attending the World Inter-Parliamentary Assembly in Manama, calling for an expansion of relations.

Informed regional sources have alleged to Amwaj.media that the King and the Crown Prince wish to reconcile with Al-Wefaq Secretary-General, Sheikh Ali Salman, who is imprisoned.

"The King and Crown Prince were in 2011 on the cusp of reaching an agreement with Al-Wefaq, but the Saudi intervention ruined it. It should therefore be expected that Bahrain will make use of the new conditions to move back towards an understanding with the moderate opposition and free political prisoners," the senior regional source emphasized. He concluded, "The late prime minister, who was against the compromise between the Crown Prince and Sheikh Ali [Salman], is gone."

This comes in the wake of the Mar. 10 announcement by Iran and Saudi Arabia following clandestine negotiations in China that they will reopen embassies by early May.

On the same day, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani also indicated hopes for an improvement in ties following the rapprochement with Saudi Arabia. He stated, "Fortunately, with the positive atmosphere that we are witnessing in the region, this positive development can happen in connection with other regional countries as well, including Bahrain. We should further trust the path of diplomacy and take steps in this direction."

It is to mention that the Bahraini authorities routinely label Shiite dissidents as "spies" of Iran. A worsening crackdown over the following years saw the imprisonment of almost all major opposition figures, including moderate Shiites who had sought political engagement with the authorities.

In 2015, Salman was sentenced to four years in jail over his continued support for the demands of the Arab Spring protests and insistence that those behind human rights abuses be held accountable. In 2017, Salman faced another trial over what Amnesty International has referred to as "spurious intelligence-sharing charges" pertaining to alleged plotting with Qatar during the 2011 protests. The accusation notably emerged in the context of Bahrain's decision to join Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE in blockading Qatar.

Arabic Version