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The New Middle East? Bahrain’s FM Defends Israel; A Qatari Royal Assails Iran

Recent remarks by public figures – both official and unofficial – in the Arab world signal a process of realignment in the Middle East, in which Israel is more accepted, and Iran is increasingly isolated.

In a sign of warming ties between Israel and some Arab countries, Bahrain has backed the Jewish State’s right to “defend itself” against Iranian aggression, following Israel’s military response to attempted Iranian missile strikes on an Israeli army base, The Times of Israel reported [1] Thursday.

“As long as Iran has breached the status quo in the region and invaded countries with its forces and missiles, so any state in the region, including Israel, is entitled to defend itself by destroying sources of danger,” Bahrain’s Foreign Minister said in Arabic in a statement [2] on his official Twitter account.

Israel says [3] Iranian rocket attacks on Israeli positions in the Golan Heights – carried out by Iranian special forces – prompted the overnight strikes. In response, the Israeli army carried out widespread raids against Iranian targets in Syria, in an effort to strangle Tehran’s ambition to build a permanent military presence in the country.

The Bahraini statement came alongside strong support for Israel’s right to self-defense from the United States, Germany, and the United Kingdom. It is, however, rare for an Arab country with no diplomatic ties to Israel to offer explicit public statements of support.

Over the past months, a split emerged between Arab countries over their relationship with Iran. In June 2017, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt cut all diplomatic ties with Qatar over the emirate’s relationship with Iran.

On Thursday, Qatar’s Sheikh Sultan bin Suhaim al-Thani criticized [4] the Qatari government over its support for Iran, following the U.S.’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear accord.

“The Hamad regime’s alignment with Iran after the US withdrew from the nuclear deal proves that the Qatari authority is involving our people in a confused stance for the sake of Iranian interests. They’ve allowed Qatar to become a toy in the Iranian regime’s (hands),” Sheikh Sultan said in a tweet.

“Instead of standing with the Arab project to confront the Iranian threat, the Hamad regime stands with Iran against its neighbors. For how long will our country be hijacked for absurd interests?” he added.

Sheikh Sultan is the eighth child of Sheikh Suhaim bin Hamad, a brother of the former Qatari Emir Sheikh Khalifah bin Hamad Al-Thani.

[Photo: The International Institute for Strategic Studies / YouTube ]