Losing Friends — Iran Style

Recent news reports of provocative statements of some Iranian officials on Bahrain, albeit denied by Iranian government, have understandably elicited strong reaction from both the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Speaking at a ceremony marking the 30th anniversary of Iran Revolution, Director of General Investigation at the Islamic Revolutionary Office Ali Akbar Nouri referred to Bahrain as the “14th Iranian governorate.” No wonder Bahrain is upset. Only recently had Bahrain lodged a protest with Iran by summoning Iranian ambassador in Manama on similar remarks by an Iranian parliamentarian. The Iranian Ambassador to Bahrain has been swift to deny the reports about Akbar Nouri’s statements first published in the Arabic daily Ashraq al Aswat. Even while Teheran has denied the highly provocative statements saying they were misconstrued and misquoted, they have been perceived in Bahrain as an infringement on its sovereignty and deserving of a fitting diplomatic response.

GCC Secretary General Abdul Rahman Al- Attiya has called on Iran to rein in its officials as such irresponsible rhetoric only serves to consolidate Iran’s image in the region as an interventionist and expansionist country. Al Attiya rightly slammed the ignorance of the Iranian officials about “geography, history, international covenants and norms”. The GCC chief has warned Teheran to take strong note of the irresponsible statements of its representatives, as it would undermine the GCC states’ “genuine efforts to build stronger relations with Iran based on mutual respect.” The Arab League has also taken the issue seriously with its Secretary General Amr Moussa condemning the rhetoric of some Iranian officials as “very harmful”.

Iran’s perception in the Gulf is one of a state that follows interventionist policies based on its activities in Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq; one whose nature is expansionist and aimed at eventual regional hegemony. Iran’s continued illegal occupation of the three islands of Abu Musa, Lower and Greater Tunb belonging to the UAE and its periodic offensives targeting Bahrain’s sovereignty are factors that consolidate this perception.

It is only natural that Gulf states are wary of Iran’s motives considering their attempts at strengthening diplomatic and political relations with Iran are met with such hostility from a state that should be more careful about image building and perceptions in a highly sensitive environment. Iran being a major regional player should look at building relations with its neighbours and not undermine them considering its continuing isolation in the international community. It should build new alliances and friendships, not harm the existing ones.

More news from OPINION