What does Washington seek behind Bahrain Conference?
Representatives from more than 60 countries attended a meeting in Bahrain on Tuesday to discuss maritime security and fighting arms smuggling in the Persian Gulf region. Bahrain’s ambassador to Washington Abdulla Bin Rashid Al Khalifa claimed that the meeting’s aim was to protect freedom of navigation and maritime trade as well as recognizing the threats coming from increasing Iranian “hostility.”
Although the ruling Al Khalifa regime in Bahrain over the past few years has been busy spreading anti-Iranian accusations and hatching plots against the Islamic Republic— as the country’s Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa has accused Iran of smuggling arms and explosives into the small Persian Gulf monarchy—, the Israeli Channel 13 reported that the anti-Iranian conference was an American initiative and has been arranged following pressures from Washington on the Bahraini officials.
What does Washington seek behind such a conference?
Anti-Resistance camp retreats
The Manama conference, whose anti-Tehran nature was not hidden to anybody, came as a sequel to Washington’s efforts to forge regional and international alliances against Tehran. A look at its timing makes it clear that after the UAE and then Saudi Arabia’s moving back from an approach of escalation of tensions with Iran and their show of intention to engage in negotiations for calm in the region, the Americans have grown severely concerned about early unravelling of the largely symbolic “alliance for protecting freedom of navigation in Persian Gulf and Bab-el-Mandeb Strait” that was announced by Trump administration in July following a string of incidents affecting the allies’ oil tankers and ports.
The two Arab countries’ will to de-escalate tensions with Iran was shown after the US frustrated Riyadh and Abu Dhabi’s demands to directly involve in military confrontation with Iran as the Yemeni Ansarullah, alleged to receive support from Iran, launched painful missile and drone attacks on positions in Saudi Arabia as the head of the Arab alliance that waged a devastating war against Yemen since March 2015.
As signs of approach change in the Emirati and then Saudi policy toward the Yemen war surfaced, Tehran unveiled its initiatives for cooperation and partnership with the Arab states to establish a new collective regional security order. The latest Iranian initiative was “Hormuz Peace Endeavor (HOPE), offered by the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during the United Nations General Assembly speech last month.
Apparent enough, Arab de-escalation with Iran is grave for Washington which over decades propagated a policy of Iranophobia to legitimize its military presence in the region and sell to the oil-wealthy monarchies hundreds of billions worth of arms annually. Responding to the regional countries’ movement towards rapprochement, the White House arranged the Manama security conference to assure the Arab sides Washington is committed to the protection of their maritime trade and oil exports.
Normalization with Tel Aviv without deal of the century
The Bahrain security conference is deemed a sequel to the Warsaw conference, an anti-Iranian US-organized event held on February 13 and 14 in the Polish capital. The White House-arranged regional conferences under the President Donald Trump administration are meant to prepare the ground to implement “the deal of the century”, an initiative launched by Trump and his advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner to legalize the Israeli occupation and force Palestinians away from their demands to restore the occupied territories and the right to return home.
Trump was hopeful that withdrawal from the nuclear deal and start of “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran, which means pressure on Iran-led Axis of Resistance— the main camp opposing the deal— the initiative and Arab-Israeli diplomatic normalization will find a way to materialization. To Trump’s chagrin, this plan was stillborn. The reason was the sturdy resistance shown by the Palestinians, the opposition by the regional states like Lebanon and Jordan, and eruption of the still-unfolding political crisis in the Israeli regime.
From another aspect, Trump, who desperately needs the pro-Israeli lobbies’ support in the presidential election, still pursues the Arab-Israeli normalization. Inviting an Israeli delegation to attend the conference was a tangible move towards setting up between Tel Aviv and Arabs security and economic partnerships. This goal was already set and raised during the UNGA meetings. Israeli officials met with Arab diplomats and suggested a partnership. Kuwait and Qatar rejected the offer. Bahrain’s FM was responsible for passing the Israeli messages to other Persian Gulf Arab states.
Palestinian groups repeatedly disparaged hosting the Israeli officials and delegations by the Arab states, labeling it a treasonous action to legitimize the Israeli crimes and atrocities against the Palestinian people. Hazem Ghasem, a spokesman to Gaza-based Hamas, said the Israeli participation in Bahrain conference was normalization between the two sides, adding that the sides taking steps towards normalizing diplomatic ties with Tel Aviv, in fact, stood accomplices to the Israeli aggression against the Palestinians and the violations against the sacred sites like the holy al-Aqsa Mosque.