Does Iran have a card to play in Bahrain?

Security forces attacking inmates inside Bahrain’s Jaw prison, March 10, 2015.

Security forces attacking inmates inside Bahrain’s Jaw prison, March 10, 2015.

On March 6, on the fourth anniversary of Saudi troops entering Bahrain, the Shiites of Bahrain participated in rallies, led by Al Wefaq National Islamic Society, in the cities of Manama and Sitra. While these protests failed to grab headlines, a new slogan was introduced for the Bahraini Shiite movement: “We are all members of the resistance.” In the political language of the Middle East, resistance means the mostly Shiite front under the leadership of Iran and Hezbollah, the Shiite groups in Iraq, the Houthi movement in Yemen, the Syrian government and Hamas.

Since February 2011, Shiites in Bahrain, in continuation of the Arab Spring, took to the streets and demonstrated, asking for the removal of the prime minister, change in the establishment and constitutional reform.

A small Island in the Persian Gulf and home to the United States Fifth Naval Fleet, Bahrain — which has a Shiite majority — is run by a Sunni ruling class. The protesters have not taken up arms against the establishment and have so far only participated in peaceful demonstrations in the presence of numerous military and security forces in the streets. Still, two years ago, a group called Saraya al-Mukhtar declared its existence. The name of this group means Partisans of Mukhtar al-Thaqafi, who was a prominent early Shiite Islamic figure who sought vengeance for the killing of Imam Hussein. The logo of this group has been very delicately designed to appear unique while including all the visual elements of the official logo of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (Sepah) — such as the AK-47, the clenched fist and a verse from the Quran.

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This article was written by Abbas Qaidaari for Al-Monitor on March 19, 2015. Abbas Qaidaari is an Iranian international security and defense policy analyst.