Bahrain Iran’s province claim sparks uproar
MANAMA: Claims by the editor of a hardline Iranian newspaper that Bahrain is part of Iran and should be returned have provoked uproar in the Gulf Arab island which is seeking an explanation from Tehran.
Hossein Shariatmadari, editor of conservative Iranian daily Kayhan, said in an article published on Monday that Bahrain was a province of non-Arab, Shiite Iran, and that Bahrainis were demanding the island’s return to its “native land”. The comments caused a firestorm in Bahrain, which has a majority Shiite population but is ruled by a Sunni royal family, and threaten to escalate into a diplomatic spat.
“We are awaiting an official response from Iran on the ... Shariatmadari issue,” a Bahraini Foreign Ministry official who declined to be named told Reuters on Thursday. Sectarian tensions have flared in Bahrain in the past, as Shiites complain of discrimination in jobs and services. Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to whom Shariatmadari is considered close, is one of a number of religious leaders to whom Shiite Muslims look for guidance, although only a minority of Bahraini Shiites follow Khamenei.
Bahrain’s shura council, or upper chamber of parliament, condemned Shariatmadari’s comments. “The shura council in Bahrain has strongly deplored the irresponsible statements released by the advisor to Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and managing editor of Iranian daily Kayhan, Hossein Shariatmadari,” it said in a statement.
Bahrain is an ally of the United States and hosts the US navy’s Fifth Fleet, whose deployment of two aircraft carriers off Iranian waters in recent months has raised pressure on the Islamic Republic in its nuclear standoff with the West.
Iran’s embassy in Bahrain said Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki would address the issue during a trip to the tiny Gulf Arab kingdom on Friday. It was not clear whether Shariatmadari’s comments triggered the visit. Embassy spokesman Abulghasem Vafaei distanced Iranian policy from Shariatmadari, saying he did not advise Iran’s leadership in foreign affairs.
“This article is completely his personal view, it is not related to any official. This man is a journalist, not an adviser in foreign policy,” he said. reuters