Bahrain king told Petraeus the Shi'ite opposition was trained, backed by Iran

Tuesday, March 8, 2011   E-Mail this story   Free Headline Alerts

LONDON The U.S. State Dept. was skeptical of Bahrain's assessment that its Shi'ite opposition was being secretly directed by Iran.

U.S. government documents report briefings by Bahraini leaders who linked the Shi'ite opposition to the regime in Teheran. The documents said Iran was using its proxies to help train Shi'ite fighters in urban warfare.

As early as 2008, the documents said, Bahrain's King Hamad Bin Issa Al Khalifa asserted that the Shi'ite opposition was being directed by Iran. In a meeting with U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus, then commander in Iraq, the king said Iran was sending members of Bahrain's opposition for training with Hizbullah in Lebanon.

In the July 2008 meeting, reported in a State Department cable released by WikiLeaks, the king also said Iran has recruited Syria in an effort to destabilize his country. Hamad said Syria was providing the Bahraini opposition with false passports for entry into Lebanon.

In the briefing, Hamad said he did not have evidence to support his allegations. But the king said the Iranian destabilization campaign was designed to force Bahrain to expel the U.S. military presence, particularly the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet.

The State Department was believed to have been skeptical over the king's claims that the Shi'ite opposition was directed by Iran. Another cable by the U.S. embassy in Manama asserted that the opposition was fueled by the discriminatory policies of the Sunni kingdom. Shi'ites comprise about 70 percent of the population of the Gulf Cooperation Council state.

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