King Hamad of Bahrain took the historic step this Friday to become the second Arab leader in the past 30 days to normalize relations with Israel. Following the courageous move by Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed, the de facto ruler of the UAE, to establish ties with the Jewish state, the forward-thinking monarch of Bahrain has now also welcomed President Trump’s Middle East peace initiative by taking the bold step to officially recognize Israel.
Before Washington celebrates this historic achievement, however, it is absolutely imperative that the Iranian regime not be allowed to follow-up on its vile but real threat “to seek harsh revenge” on King Hamad for making peace with Israel.
On Saturday, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC) and its lackey, Hezbollah, strongly condemned Hamad and Bahrain for normalizing relations with Israel. In its statement, the IRGC vowed “harsh revenge from its own people and the Palestinians.” The announcement went on to say “the executioner ruler (a reference to His Majesty King Hamad) of Bahrain should await the harsh revenge of the Islamic fighters.”
The message from Tehran to one of America’s strongest allies on the global stage is clear: “We will do everything to overthrow the monarchy of Bahrain.” The irony is, the regime of Ali Khamnei, Iran’s supreme leader, is the real executioner, for on the same day that the IRGC put out this despicable threat against Bahrain, the regime executed 27-year-old Navid Afkari, a champion wrestler on bogus charges despite a plea from President Trump.
It should come as no surprise that the Iranian regime is lashing out at Bahrain because there is a fundamental difference between the Kingdom of Bahrain and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Bahrain and its visionary monarch have made peace with Israel because one of the main features of this small island nation is religious tolerance. Respect for and tolerance of other faiths is woven into the fabric of Bahraini life. For example, Bahrain was the first country in the Arab world to send a Jewish woman, Houda Nonoo, to Washington as its ambassador.
In addition, the Bahai community, which is continuously harassed and persecuted by the regime of Ayatollah Khamnei, is free to thrive and practice its faith in Bahrain. And while the Islamic regime of Iran continues to jail Christian missionaries for sharing the Gospel with their fellow Iranians, Bahrain remains one of the safest countries in the Arab world for Christians. In fact, one of the oldest institutions that since 1903 has been woven into the fabric of Bahraini life is the American Missionary Hospital, a symbol of the long history of Christian faith in a Muslim land.
In addition to sharing American values such as religious tolerance, Bahrain remains one of the America’s strongest allies in the turbulent Middle East. Bahrain is home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet, a guarantor of stability in the energy-rich Persian Gulf. While American dependence on petroleum has diminished due to innovative drilling techniques, the Persian Gulf remains the main artery for the export of oil and gas to sustain the global economy. As such, one of the IRGC’s main strategic objectives is to undermine the monarchy in Bahrain and by default remove the U.S. Fifth Fleet from the Persian Gulf.
And unlike the regime of Ali Khamnei that manipulates the Palestinian cause for its nefarious geo-political ends in the region, King Hamad shares the American objective of building a free and prosperous Palestinian nation alongside Israel. It is very important to note that neither the king nor Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed see their historic decision to make peace and normalize relations with Israel as turning their back on the Palestinian people.
What these visionary leaders see is an opportunity to leverage Israel’s expertise in such areas as water management to help improve the lives of their own people. In the case of Bahrain, normalized relations with Israel will help accelerate the vision of Hamad to make his country a hub for renewable energy. In the early part of 2011, the king lay the foundation of solar energy for Bahrain by authorizing his trusted minister Dr. Abdulhussein Mirza to build a 5 MW smart solar pilot project with American technology.
With this historic agreement with the Jewish state, Bahrain can now access Israeli technology in not only water desalination but also solar energy and battery storage. The technology corridor that will be built between Bahrain and Israel will be a massive success not only for both nations but also for the entire region, including the Palestinian people.
President Trump can preserve his legacy as a peacemaker and ensure that King Hamad’s courageous act of peacemaking with Israel lasts for decades by sending a strong, clear and bold message to Iran’s theocratic dictatorship that the United States will stand by Bahrain. King Hamad has taken a huge step toward peace and deserves the unconditional support of America.
• S. Rob Sobhani is CEO of Caspian Group Holdings.
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