Iran Not Seeking New Tensions in Region

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Interview with Hossein Noushabadi
Iran's Former Ambassador to Oman

The Foreign Ministry of Bahrain has recently summoned deputy chargé d'affaires of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Manama in protest to Iran's alleged support for the country’s February 14 revolution. This comes as summoning Iranian diplomats at the country’s diplomatic mission in Manama has been going on for a while and during the past year, Iranian diplomats have been frequently summoned to Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry on false grounds. In the latest instance of such summoning, the Manama government gave Mohammad Reza Babaei, Iran's chargé d'affaires, 72 hours to leave the country.

In a tit-for-tat response, Iran declared Bahrain’s charge d’affaires in Tehran as persona non grata, giving him 72 hours to leave the country. However, during past few years and after election of the new Iranian administration, which has chosen “hope and foresight” as its motto, Tehran has put strong emphasis on improvement of relations with regional countries. Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, on the other hand, have topped the list of countries that while opposing Tehran, have continued their policy of increasing tension with Tehran. In the following interview, Hossein Noushabadi, Iran's former ambassador to Oman and regional analyst has explained about Iran's relations with Bahrain.

Q: What is the root cause of persistent differences between Tehran and Manama?

A: Unfortunately, we have been witnessing tension and reduction in relations between Tehran and Manama during past few years and this issue has been mostly due to the way that the Bahraini government has chosen to deal with the country’s Shia majority. Unfortunately, the government in Manama pays no attention to demands and basic rights of this part of its people. Nonetheless, the Islamic Republic of Iran, as a country that has been trying in past years to maintain amicable ties with its neighbors on the basis of good neighborhood and by observing the principles of amiable neighborly relations and mutual respect, has been critical of Bahrain’s behavior. Tehran believes that such a policy [that has been adopted by Bahrain’s government toward the country’s Shia majority] will lead to instability in this country and that instability will finally turn into a threat to national security of all countries across the region. As a result, since the outbreak of popular protests in Bahrain, Iran has recommended that country’s government to avoid use of violence against its people, answer their demands and respect their basic rights. Bahrain’s government, however, has been blaming Iran for all its problems in a projectionist effort, and has been leveling charges against our country. And in doing so, it has not only stood against the legitimate demands of its people in the worst possible way, but has also suppressed them using the harshest methods. Under these circumstances, it is quite natural for Iran not to remain indifferent toward this situation as people in the region, especially Shias, expect Iran, which has built its foreign policy on the basis of supporting the oppressed of the world, to show reaction and support them. Iran's support for people in the region has been always done without interference in the internal affairs of those countries and Tehran has simply offered recommendations to the government in Bahrain to avoid violence as a result of which its approach to Bahrain has been within framework of international rules and regulations.

Q: To what extent, Bahraini government’s criticism of Iran could be affected by Saudi Arabia’s policies?

A: I believe that if it were not for political and material support from the Saudi government, the government in Bahrain could not survive and if Riyadh had not put so much pressure on Manama, the process of political and social reforms in Bahrain would have gone on much faster and at much lower cost. If Bahrain had an independent government and was ruled on the basis of people’s will, it would have paid attention to demands of its people. Unfortunately, Saudi Arabia does not want political reforms and democracy to take root in Bahrain because it considers development of democracy and political reforms as being against its interests and at odds with its regional policies. However, after the beginning of popular protests in Bahrain, the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates dispatched their forces into Bahrain and started suppressing Bahraini people. This development further emboldened the government in Bahrain, which now thinks it can do anything by recourse to brute force. I think if Bahrain was an independent country and cared about its national interests, it could have the best political relations with Iran. The Islamic Republic is currently having amiable relations with many regional countries and has greatly helped them to maintain their stability and security. Iran's relations with Oman and Iraq are good examples to the point. At present, Oman enjoys the best relations with us among all regional countries and has made the most of its amicable ties to Iran. Bahrain must know that continuation of its past policies would not be to its benefit, nor would it help Bahraini government to maintain future stability in the country. However, through good relations with Tehran, Manama would be able to protect both its interests and security.

Q: What steps Tehran can take in order to reduce tensions between the two countries?

A: Iran follows certain principles in its foreign policy, to which it is committed. In our foreign policy, we have given priority to relations with our neighbors, and on this basis, we have been trying to reduce tensions in the region and establish stability there in order to strip enemies of any excuses. While criticizing methods used by the government of Bahrain, we have never volunteered to sever relations with Bahrain or even make them tense. The Islamic Republic of Iran is by no means seeking new tensions in the region. Unfortunately, some regional countries, including Bahrain, are following suit with Saudi Arabia. If they acted independently and were not influenced by some regional and transregional powers, we could have hope in bilateral relations to be regulated on the basis of mutual respect and the two countries’ interests. I think that frequent summoning of Iran's charge d’affaires and representative in Bahrain, cannot help the country’s government in a way and will only make the situation more complicated. We expect the government in Manama to regulate its policies at regional and international levels through a more realistic approach and correct understanding of regional conditions while paying due attention to the rights of the nation and demands of its own people.

Q: Will mediation by such countries as Oman or Kuwait be helpful for the reduction of differences between Tehran and Manama and decrease differences between the two countries?

A: As far as I know, the government in Muscat has made great efforts during past years in order to improve relations between Tehran and Manama, and in doing so, Omani officials have made frequent trips to Bahrain, offering recommendations to Bahraini officials. On the other hand, Omani officials have also offered recommendation to us in consultations with Iranian officials. In other words, Oman is very keen on seeing improved and expanded relations between Iran and Bahrain, but even they have lost hope in Bahrain adopting an independent and realistic policy toward Iran. They have done what they could and they can still play a positive role for the improvement of Iran's relations with littoral Arab states of the Persian Gulf, especially Bahrain. However, such mediatory efforts would only bear fruit when there is a political will for the improvement of ties on both sides. That will exist on Iran's part, but unfortunately, the other side lacks such determination.

Key Words: Iran, Bahrain, Tensions, Manama, Saudi Arabia, Root Cause, Differences, Shia Majority, Basic Rights, National Interests, United Arab Emirates, Realistic Approach, Oman, Kuwait, Arab states, Persian Gulf, Noushabadi

Source: Etemad Newspaper
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

*Photo Credit: Getty Images

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