Throughout the Middle East, countries struggle with how to limit Iran’s influence within their borders. Lebanon has seen its political scene altered by the Iranian-funded Hezbollah, to the point that Hezbollah has become one of its political parties. For Bahrain, the struggle is how to avoid the same fate, as Iran looks for ways to integrate itself in the country.
During a meeting with top Trump officials, Minister of the Interior Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa discussed the dispute with Qatar and Iranian meddling throughout the region. The series of gatherings, which were part of an official visit to the United States, included a meeting with Defense Secretary James Mattis at the Pentagon, where the two men discussed defense cooperation and arms sales to Bahrain.
The Trump administration had informed Congress last spring to pursue a $5 billion sale of 19 F-16s to Bahrain, a move that lifted a freeze on the deal by former President Obama.
The U.S. Secretary of Defense welcomed the visit, hailing the historical and strategic ties between the two countries. He also expressed appreciation for the role that Bahrain plays in the region, while condemning the Iranian influence in Bahrain and Iranian attempts to disturb the Kingdom’s security.
Mattis also expressed sincere condolences to the families of the policemen who have died in the line of duty. The meeting included the military attaché of the Bahrain Embassy in Washington. Rashid outlined the steps that the Interior Ministry had taken to modernize its security procedures and to reinforce security cooperation and the exchange of expertise across the countries’ counter-terrorism departments.
The Bahraini minister also met acting director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Andrew McCabe and other intelligence officials. Another meeting included members of Congress, such as the House Speaker and Congressman Paul Ryan. The group confirmed their support to Bahrain in its steps to confront the Iranian threat and hegemony which need to be addressed through various means.
As part of his visit to the U.S., Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and Rashid also discussed the need to boost information exchanges between the two countries.
“Secretary Kelly and Sheikh Rashed spoke about the need to increase information sharing between the Department and Ministry of Interior and Secretary Kelly offered his support to work with Bahrain in the fight against terrorism,” said the DHS in a statement.
President Trump has been outspoken about supporting the region’s stand against Iran, which he has labeled an exporter of terrorism and fundamentalism.