Bahrain and Iran could restore ties soon, says US official

Gulf nation cut all diplomatic relations in 2016, a day after Saudi Arabia broke off diplomatic contact with Tehran

Barbara Leaf, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, appears before a Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
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Bahrain could restore diplomatic ties with Iran “sometime soon”, US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf has told American politicians.

The Gulf nation cut diplomatic ties with Iran in 2016, a day after Saudi Arabia severed relations with Tehran after its embassy in the Iranian capital and consulate in the north-west city of Mashhad were attacked by protesters.

Speaking during a subcommittee session on Tuesday, Ms Leaf told members of the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs that two GCC countries had never broken relations with Iran, in a reference to Kuwait and Oman. “Bahrain is the only one that has not yet resumed but I think it will happen sometime soon,” she added.

She was responding to a question by Congresswoman Kathy Manning, who asked her about the status of projects by the Abraham Accords countries following the rapprochement deal signed between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Saudi Arabia and Tehran announced in March that they would restore ties, with Iran reopening its embassy in Riyadh on June 6.

On the day Riyadh and Tehran signed their agreement to restore ties, Bahrain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it welcomed the rapprochement, which was brokered by China.

“This agreement would constitute a positive step on the road to resolving differences and ending all regional conflicts through dialogue and diplomatic means, and establishing international relations on the basis of understanding and respect and mutual good neighbourliness and non-interference in the affairs of other countries,” the ministry said on March 11.

The following day, Ahmed Al Musallam, the chairman of Bahrain's Council of Representatives, received his Iranian counterpart Mojtaba Rezakha in Manama during an Inter-Parliamentary Union meeting.

In May, an Iranian delegation led by Ali Alizadeh, a member of the Iranian parliament’s national security and foreign policy committee, also visited Manama as part of the Asian Parliamentary Assembly meetings.

Following those two meetings, Bahraini MP Mamdouh Al Saleh said the topic of restoring relations was discussed by both sides.

“I can confirm that there have been positive efforts to restore relations, and there will undoubtedly be positive results in the near future without the need for third parties,” Mr Al Saleh told reporters earlier last month.

Earlier in April, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said that the government in Tehran had held two meetings with the Bahraini government. Bahrain has not confirmed or commented on the meetings.

“The result is appropriate for the restoration of relations with Bahrain,” he said at the time.

So far, the Iranian delegation has sent a technical delegation to Manama to inspect the embassy, with the team “positively received by the Bahraini side”, Mr Kanaani said.

Updated: June 14, 2023, 1:50 PM