Iran said Saturday that Bahrain is now a partner to the “crimes” of Israel, after the announcement of a deal to normalize relations between Jerusalem and Manama.
“The rulers of Bahrain will from now on be partners to the crimes of the Zionist regime as a constant threat to the security of the region and the world of Islam,” the foreign ministry said in a statement following Friday’s announcement of the agreement.
Iran accused its arch foe Israel of “decades of violence, slaughter, war, terror and bloodshed in oppressed Palestine and the region.”
Iran said that through this “shameful” deal, Bahrain has “sacrificed the Palestinian cause at the altar of American elections.”
Its “result will undoubtedly be growing anger and the lasting hatred of the oppressed people of Palestine, Muslims and the free nations of the world,” the Iranian Foreign Ministry said.
The Friday announcement by US President Donald Trump made Bahrain the second Arab country in a month, after the United Arab Emirates, to normalize ties with Israel under US sponsorship.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said earlier this month that the UAE had “betrayed” the Muslim world and that he hoped they would “soon wake up and compensate for what they have done.”
Bahrain is acutely aware of threats posed by Iran — the Kingdom has a majority Shiite population, despite being ruled since 1783 by the Sunni Al Khalifa family.
The ruling elites are firmly allied with Saudi Arabia in its rivalry with Shiite Iran, even as the Bahrain’s Shiites have familial, linguistic and political ties with Tehran going back decades.
Iran under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi had pushed to take over Bahrain after British protection ended, though Bahrainis in 1970 overwhelmingly supported becoming an independent nation and the UN Security Council unanimously backed that.
Since Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, Bahrain’s rulers have blamed Iran for arming militants on the island and stirring unrest. Iran denies the accusations.
Bahrain’s Shiite majority has accused the government of treating them like second-class citizens. The Shiites joined pro-democracy activists in demanding more political freedoms in 2011, as Arab Spring protests swept across the wider Middle East.
Saudi and Emirati troops ultimately helped violently put down the demonstrations.
Bahrain, alongside the UAE, downgraded its relations with Iran in 2016 amid rising tensions between Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic.
Tehran-Riyadh relations deteriorated further last year following a series of attacks on tankers in the Gulf, which Washington blamed on Tehran despite Iranian denials.
Saudi Arabia and Iran take opposing sides in regional conflicts from Syria to Yemen.
Iran’s Saturday announcement came after a joint statement released by the White House a day earlier said Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Salman al-Khalifa spoke earlier in the day with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “and agreed to the establishment of full diplomatic relations between Israel and the Kingdom of Bahrain.”
Israel and the UAE announced they were normalizing relations on August 13, and a signing ceremony for their accord is being held at the White House on September 15 — Bahrain will now join that ceremony, with its foreign minister Abdullatif Al Zayani and Netanyahu signing “a historic Declaration of Peace,” the joint statement said.
The joint statement specified that the parties would continue their efforts to achieve a “just, comprehensive and enduring resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to enable the Palestinian people to reach their full potential.”
Nonetheless, the accord constitutes another major blow to the Palestinian leader and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who had condemned the UAE-Israel deal as despicable and a betrayal, and sought in vain to have the Arab League condemn it earlier this week.
The kingdom of Bahrain, a tiny island nation close to the UAE and Saudi Arabia, had been expected by many to be the next country to establish relations with Israel, as it has long made public overtures to the Jewish state. It hosted the first major gathering of the Trump administration’s peace effort, a Peace to Prosperity workshop, in Manama in June 2019. Earlier this month, Bahrain announced that it was opening its airspace to Israeli flights.
In the weeks since the UAE normalization deal was announced on August 13, US and Israeli officials have said other Arab states will follow the Emirates’ lead and normalize ties with Israel, with speculation also focusing on Oman and Sudan.
Trump on Thursday claimed that if he wins another presidential term in November, both Iran and the Palestinians will return to the negotiation table.
“If we win the election, Iran will come and sign a deal with us very rapidly. Within the first, I would say week, but let’s give ourselves a month because their GDP went down [by] 25% [as a result of US-led sanctions], which is like an unheard of number and they’d like to get back to having a successful country again,” Trump said.
“And I think… the Palestinians will get back into the fold,” the president continued, admitting that he was “frankly surprised” that Ramallah has continued to boycott his administration since Washington recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017.
However, he said his administration’s decision to withhold $750 million dollars in annual aid to the Palestinian Authority “is the best way… to bring [the sides] together.”
Jacob Magid, Raphael Ahren and Agencies contributed to this report.