Bahrain hints at evidence of Iran protest links

The allegations of Iranian involvement in the kingdom`s 10-month-old unrest have been central to Gulf policies.

Updated: Nov 24, 2011, 21:29 PM IST

Manama: Bahrain suggested on Thusday that
it has classified evidence that Iran was linked to Shiite-led
protests in the Gulf kingdom despite an independent commission
that said it found nothing to back the claims.

The allegations of Iranian involvement in the kingdom`s
10-month-old unrest have been central to Gulf policies during
the region`s largest Arab Spring uprising, including the
decision to send a Saudi-led military force to reinforce
Bahrain`s embattled Sunni monarchy.

But the findings of a special commission that investigated
Bahrain`s turmoil -- contained in a 500-page report issued
yesterday -- were a direct slap at fears by the Western-allied
Gulf states that Shiite power Iran seeks to use Bahrain as a
foothold to try to undermine the region`s Sunni Arab regimes.

The official Bahrain News Agency said national security
concerns prevented sharing all intelligence on Iran, which has
sharply denounced the crackdowns on Bahrain`s Shiite majority
but insists it has no direct ties to the conflict.

The news agency also repeated statements by Bahrain`s king
that Iranian propaganda has fuelled the bloodshed and clashes
on the strategic island, which is home to the US Navy`s 5th
Fleet. Earlier this month, Bahrain claimed it dismantled an
Iranian-linked terror cell that plotted attacks on
high-profile targets including the Saudi Embassy.

The special commission`s report -- authorised by Bahrain`s
rulers in a bid to ease tensions -- was dominated by details
of abuses including torture, excessive force and legal
shortcomings under a special security court.

At least 35 people have been killed in violence related to
the uprising, including several members of the security
forces.

Bahrain`s Shiites comprise about 70 per cent of the
island nation`s 525,000 citizens. They have complained of
widespread discrimination such as being blocked from top
government or military posts. The monarchy has offered some
concessions, but refused to bow to protest demands to
surrender control of all top positions and main policies.

Many of the report`s conclusions had been previously noted
by rights groups and opposition activists. But the burden fell
on Bahrain`s authorities to prove their charges of Iranian
links to the protests.

The report said evidence presented by Bahrain`s government
"does not establish a discernible link between specific
incidents" during the time period studied from February and
March.

PTI