update deskMiddle East

Bahrain could follow Riyadh in restoring relations with Iran

Both Sunni states severed diplomatic relations with Tehran in 2016.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog participates in a forum at the Bahrain Economic Development Board, Dec. 4, 2022. Credit: Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog participates in a forum at the Bahrain Economic Development Board, Dec. 4, 2022. Credit: Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO.

Manama and Tehran have held secret talks in recent months, and Bahrain could follow the Saudis in restoring relations with the Islamic Republic.

A “senior regional source” told the U.K.-based Amwaj.media news outlet that “low-profile exchanges” have taken place focused not on the political level but on “administrative and bureaucratic issues.”

Saudi Arabia and Iran announced on Friday renewed ties brokered by China, including the reopening of their respective embassies within two months. Bahrain would thus become the only Gulf Arab state without an envoy in Tehran.

“After the reopening of the embassies in Tehran and Riyadh, there will, after a short period of time, also likely be a normalization between Iran and Bahrain, the source said. “There is no serious [outstanding] issue between Iran and Bahrain.”

Bahrain followed Saudi Arabia in severing diplomatic ties with Tehran in 2016 after Iranian protesters attacked Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran in response to the kingdom executing Shia religious figure Nimr al-Nimr.

An apparent warming of relations between the Gulf neighbors was seen at the Inter-Parliamentary Union conference in Manama that was attended by an Israeli Knesset delegation. On Monday, the speaker of Bahrain’s Council of Representatives, Ahmed bin Salman al-Musallam, met with a visiting Iranian delegation and called for an expansion of relations.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani on Monday said in relation to the rapprochement with Saudi Arabia that “fortunately, with the positive atmosphere that we are witnessing in the region, this positive development can happen in connection with other regional countries as well, including Bahrain. We should further trust the path of diplomacy and take steps in this direction.”

Bahrain is one of four Arab Muslim countries to normalize relations with Israel as part of the U.S.-brokered Abraham Accords.

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