Thursday, Aug 22, 2002
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By Atul Aneja
Bahrain's King Hamad, who has just concluded a visit to Iran, the first ever by a top-ranking leader from Bahrain since Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution in a joint statement expressed determined opposition to any unilateral action against Iraq. Analysts point out that the statement does not outrightly reject military action against Iraq, but implies opposition to an imposition of this decision by the United States.
Iraq, the statement adds, should respect the U.N. Security Council resolutions. In an obvious reference to Iraq's reluctance to open its facilities to U.N. inspectors, King Hamad, on his part, pointed out, "We must deprive foreign powers of any pretext to attack Islamic countries.
Bahrain is the third country which hosts U.S. military facilities to express reservations about a military strike on Iraq. Saudi Arabia, where the U.S. has established the infrastructure for military surveillance and monitoring for the entire region, has opposed military action against Iraq.
So has Oman where the U.S. is seeking to deepen its military presence, mainly to beef up its capacity to ensure the uninterrupted passage of oil tankers and commercial ships from the narrow Strait of Hormuz.
Incidentally, Saudi Arabia, Oman and now Bahrain have expressed their views on Iraq during visits by their leaders to Teheran. Diplomatic sources pointed out that Saudi Arabia and Iran would inevitably influence Bahrain's disposition towards Iraq.
Bahrain, which is deficient in oil, acquires almost all its supplies from Saudi Arabia. Bahrain also has a majority Shia population on which Iran exercises considerable influence.
A war with Iraq, which can cause considerable instability in the region, can also undermine Bahrain's profile as the region's financial hub as well as upset its plans to place the archipelago on the international tourist map.
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