Iran TerrorismU.S. says Iran is meddling in Bahrain

U.S. says Iran is meddling in Bahrain


Wall Street Journal: Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the U.S. has “evidence” of Iranian meddling in Bahrain and other Middle Eastern countries hit by political turmoil.

The Wall Street Journal


RIYADH, Saudi Arabia—Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the U.S. has “evidence” of Iranian meddling in Bahrain and other Middle Eastern countries hit by political turmoil.

Mr. Gates didn’t reveal what proof the U.S. has of alleged Iranian interference. But he said face-to-face discussions in Riyadh on Wednesday with Saudi King Abdullah centered in part on ways Iran has sought to take advantage of the recent political turbulence in the region.

“We already have evidence that the Iranians are trying to exploit the situation in Bahrain, and we also have evidence that they are talking about what they can do to try and create problems elsewhere as well,” Mr. Gates told reporters.

U.S. officials have said previously they don’t see Iran as being the cause of any of the popular revolts that have swept the region. But they have expressed concern that protracted political turmoil could benefit Tehran, whose Shiite Muslim religion makes it a natural ally of Shiite protesters against the Sunni rulers in Bahrain, in particular.

Iran is the regional nemesis both of the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, but the two allies haven’t always seen eye to eye on how they should respond to the turmoil now sweeping the Middle East and North Africa.

At the invitation of the Bahraini royal family, Saudi Arabia has sent troops into neighboring Bahrain to quell the protests, a move that has driven a wedge between Riyadh and Washington.

The U.S. has criticized the incursion and instead tried to persuade Bahrain’s rulers to soothe the protesters with political liberalization. The Saudis were disturbed by the Obama administration’s willingness to jettison its longtime Egyptian ally, Hosni Mubarak.

With those tensions as a backdrop, Mr. Gates wanted to reassure Saudi Arabia’s leaders of continued U.S. military cooperation. Saudi Arabia is currently the top buyer of U.S. military hardware, and committed last year to a $60 billion arms package. The deal, the largest U.S. arms sale in history, includes F-15 fighter jets and a range of helicopters.

A senior defense official said Mr. Gates would report “good news” on the progress of the weapons sale. The official also said Mr. Gates would discuss potential upgrades to Saudi Arabia’s ballistic missile defenses.

The stop in Saudi Arabia is the secretary’s third visit to the region in a month in which the U.S. and its allies have groped for a response to a wave of popular unrest that has unseated governments in Egypt and Tunisia, sparked a war in Libya and threatened to destabilize Yemen and Bahrain.

As part of the diplomatic offensive, the Obama administration has encouraged Arab leaders to take the first steps toward internal political changes to avoid more violent protests.

Saudi Arabia’s rulers have largely avoided outright challenges to their rule, and have spent heavily on public benefits to relieve popular discontent. Mr. Gates was expected to discuss the administration’s general interest in political liberalization, but a senior defense official said the visit wasn’t likely to focus heavily on Saudi Arabia’s domestic policies.

“I don’t expect that their conversation’s going to turn to domestic reforms inside of Saudi Arabia,” the senior defense official said. “I think that they are likely to talk about the regional context and landscape.”

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