Trump has answers to Iranian threat, says Bahrain

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Trump has answers to Iranian threat, says Bahrain
Bahrain Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa speaks during a news conference in Manama, Bahrain, August 29, 2016.

Sitting astride one of the world's key oil shipping lanes, Bahrain hosts the US Navy's Fifth Fleet

By Noah Browning

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Published: Wed 5 Apr 2017, 7:36 PM

Last updated: Wed 5 Apr 2017, 9:45 PM

Bahrain's foreign minister has said that US President Donald Trump understood the region and the threats posed by their common adversary Iran better than Barack Obama.
Speaking in an interview, Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed Al Khalifa said the staunch US Gulf ally was confident the new administration would soon clarify its stances on foreign policy.
The kingdom, which accuses Iran of radicalising and arming some members of its population,  says Obama did not do enough to tackle perceived meddling by Iran in Bahrain and in wars raging throughout the region. Tehran denies any meddling in the island kingdom.
Trump has pledged to deal forcefully with the Islamic Republic and criticised a landmark international deal to curb its nuclear programme inked under Obama in 2015 as a concession to a state the United States considers a sponsor of terrorism.
"We see ... a much clearer understanding from the White House of the threats we are facing here in the region and especially the ones that are coming from the Islamic Republic," Sheikh Khaled said. "The last few years, there was a policy that we think it was better for them to correct, and we advised them it should be corrected."
Sheikh Khaled had met US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Washington last month, and His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain has spoken with senior US officials, on telephone, including Trump after his election.
Sitting astride one of the world's key oil shipping lanes, Bahrain is a key ally of powerhouse Saudi Arabia and hosts the US Navy's Fifth Fleet. Neither country were among the ban Trump is seeking to impose on travellers from Iran and five other Muslim-majority nations in the Middle East and Africa.
Some critics of the Trump administration fear it is prioritising the fight against militancy and Iran, but the foreign minister said the US shift acknowledged the region's harsh realities.
Sheikh Khaled said his country welcomed a decision by the White House to pursue a $5-billion sale of 19 Lockheed Martin F-16 aircraft and related equipment to Bahrain, which was held up last year by concerns about human rights. He said Trump's style may have distracted some from the merits of his views, but all administrations had growing pains.
"They'll get in order ... Maybe when you see the difference in the personality of the president, maybe that's kind of giving an overwhelming picture of the situation. Things are working in America," he said.  Bahrain says Iran has stepped up a campaign to undermine security there and bring about the downfall of the ruling Al Khalifa family, of which Sheikh Khaled is a member. "It's a whole project we are facing and it will not stop until this regime changes its course from the way it is now ­- hegemonic, theocratic, theo-fascist - to a regime that would answer the aspirations of its own people. Until that moment we will have to defend ourselves."
Bahrain says it has acted to reform its security services and that it genuinely seeks dialogue with the opposition in a way that is rare in the mostly closed and authoritarian region. "We feel like we are being pressured and punished for no reason, just for sticking our neck out and addressing issues that every country has," Sheikh Khaled said.

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