By Soheila Zarfam

Manama follows in its godfather's footsteps?

March 14, 2023 - 21:51

TEHRAN – Iran and Bahrain are conducting “significant” talks to re-establish their relations amid a thaw in Iran-Saudi ties, a report by the Russian Sputnik news agency said. 

Citing sources familiar with the matter, Sputnik said the consultations that have been taking place between the two countries so far are at a bilateral level without mediation from other parties so far, and it is expected that the results will be announced soon if there is agreement on all the contentious issues being discussed.

Bahraini MP Mamdouh Salih stressed that the Iranian parliamentary delegation, which visited the Kingdom in recent days, expressed its desire to open more horizons of cooperation with Bahrain, while the Bahraini side confirmed the same desire.

“Initiatives in the near future are looking to resolve the outstanding and thorny issues between the two countries,” he said. 

He pointed out that Bahrain always calls for non-interference in the internal affairs of any of the Arab countries, as well as with regard to its internal affairs, in connection with the interest that King Hamad bin Isa attaches to the stability of the region and the establishment of peace and security, according to Sputnik. 

In response to Sputnik's inquiry about the stage reached by the consultations between the two countries, Salih said, “I can confirm that there are good efforts to restore relations, and there will undoubtedly be positive results soon.”

He pointed to the ability of Bahrain and Iran to lead the negotiations directly without the need for third parties.

According to the Bahraini lawmaker, his country's priority is represented in its relationship with its neighbors, based on brotherhood and a commitment to non-interference in internal affairs at the national and Arab levels. In addition, Bahrain pays attention to reopening its embassy in Iran and restoring air links between the two countries, after discussing all issues between the two countries, he said. 

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said Monday that the positive atmosphere in the region that emanated from the Iran-Saudi thaw could lead to a breakthrough in Iran-Bahrain relations too. 

“Fortunately, with the positive atmosphere we see in the region, this positive development can happen with other countries in the region, including Bahrain,” he said. 
“This important diplomatic development could have positive effects and results in regional relations between countries in this common geography,” he said, adding that “relations between Iran and Bahrain are no exception to this principle.”

The new development comes amid a regional drive for reconciliation that is led by Iran and Saudi Arabia. 

Bahrain cut ties with Iran in 2016 in solidarity with Saudi Arabia which did the same that year. After seven years of diplomatic boycott, Tehran and Riyadh agreed to resume diplomatic relations in a deal brokered by China. 

According to the joint statement put out by Iran, Saudi Arabia, and China, “The three countries announce that an agreement has been reached between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran, that includes an agreement to resume diplomatic relations between them and re-open their embassies and missions within a period not exceeding two months, and the agreement includes their affirmation of the respect for the sovereignty of states and the non-interference in internal affairs of states.”

The statement added, “They also agreed that the ministers of foreign affairs of both countries shall meet to implement this, arrange for the return of their ambassadors, and discuss means of enhancing bilateral relations.”

Historically, Bahrain has followed the Saudi lead in managing its ties with Iran. It is a well-known fact that Bahrain’s relations with Iran are directly impacted by Iran-Saudi ties. Whenever relations between Terhan and Riyadh worsens, one can expect a disruption in Terhan-Manama relations. The opposite is right too. Improvement in Iran-Saudi relations often brings about positive atmosphere in Iran-Bahrain relations. 

This was on full display in the wake of the Iran-Saudi rapprochement.  

A day after the Beijing deal, an Iranian parliamentary delegation travelled to Bahrain, which also cut ties with Iran in 2016 in solidarity with Saudi Arabia. The apparent reason was to participate in in international parliamentary gathering in Manama. But the meeting that took place between Iranian and Bahraini delegations on the sidelines of this gathering was surely facilitated by the overall reconciliation push in the region. 

The Iranian delegation met late on Saturday with the Speaker of Bahrain’s Parliament, Ahamed al-Moslem.

The Iranian delegation was led by Iranian lawmaker Mojtaba Rezakhah. 

The two sides discussed ways of cooperation and coordination in international parliamentary forums. 

The meeting between the two sides, which have cut diplomatic relations since 2016, came on the sidelines of the 146th meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Manama, according to the Bahrain News Agency.

In addition to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, there are efforts to improve Iran’s relations with Egypt and Jordan, according to Arab press reports. 

As things stand, Bahrain will most probably the next Arab country to patch up ties with Iran. The Iran-Saudi deal is expected to create a ripple effect.
Zohreh Elahian, a member of the Iranian parliament’s national security and foreign policy committee, said the deal changed regional and international equations. 
In remarks to Iran’s official news agency IRNA, she said the deal is part of the Raisi administration’s policy of strengthening relations with various countries. 

“The policy of strengthening relations with neighbors and countries in the region and creating a balance between different countries is one of the issues that the government and the parliament follow, and the parliament welcomes agreements of this kind,” the lawmaker said. 

According to the lawmaker, the agreement with Saudi Arabia will make Iran needless to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“With this initiative of the 13th government and the establishment of an agreement with Saudi Arabia, the equations will definitely go in the direction of extricating the Islamic Republic from the need for the JCPOA. Also, the country's economic and commercial interactions will be strengthened,” Elahian added. 

Underlining that the deal with Saudi Arabia will render Israeli efforts ineffective, Elahian said, “Before this, the Zionist regime tried to normalize relations with the countries of the region with the so-called Abrahamic plan. But the agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia will make strengthening the relations of the countries of the region with the Islamic Republic to be the focus of the discourse instead of normalizing the relations of the countries of the region with the Zionist regime.”

She continued, “The announcement of the position of the Western countries and the Zionist regime officials about this agreement shows their anger. Because this agreement will be an opening for the Resistance Front and the oppressed people of Yemen.”

Elahian concluded, “This action will lead to the strengthening of Iran's commercial and economic relations with the countries of the region and the Persian Gulf and will neutralize part of the sanctions that were designed by the western countries.”

Iran has long called for enhanced ties with its Arab neighbors, especially in the economic fields. This was on the agenda of the Iranian delegation in Bahrain. The Emirati delegation said the United Arab Emirates wants to increase its trade with Iran to $80 billion.  

Leave a Comment