The Obama administration is fighting strongly to prevent Congress from adopting new sanctions legislation that would go into effect one year from now if, and only if, the nuclear negotiations fail or Iran cheats on its commitments. It seems that adopting such legislation would anger the Iranian regime, and would be contrary to the spirit of the talks. Or something like that.
But while we are told to walk on eggshells lest we offend the delicate Iranians, they continue to subvert their neighbors. Not for them this idea that, because there are talks, they should stop shipping arms. Syria is the obvious case, but now we have a new one: Bahrain. This week Bahraini authorities discovered “plastic explosives, detonators, bombs, automatic rifles and ammunition” which “were found in a warehouse and onboard a boat intercepted as it was heading to the country.” To be more precise, Gulf News reported that
Iranian-made explosives, Syrian bomb detonators, Kalashnikovs, C-4 explosives, Claymores, hand grenades, a PK machine gun, circuit boards for use in bomb making, armour-piercing explosives, TNT and a raft of other materials used to manufacture bombs were discovered.
Is this just propaganda from the Government of Bahrain? No; I’ve checked with US authorities and these reports are accurate.
This is of course very worrying for Bahrain; an Iranian campaign of subversion and terrorism could turn the tiny country into a war zone. I’ve written on this site many times about the need for progress in negotiations between the royal family and the majority-Shia population (most recently here), but obviously the Iranian subversion is not an effort to promote peace and democracy in Bahrain. It is among other things an effort to tell the Gulf Arab states that Iran can make their lives miserable if they continue to oppose its policies.
It is striking that at the very moment when the Obama administration is pleading with Congress to be very careful in its behavior, the Iranian regime has no fears and no hesitation to engage in this subversion. They must have calculated that the Obama administration is so committed to these nuclear talks, and so committed to the “Rouhani narrative” –that Rouhani is a moderate and we must help him succeed– that nothing they do will affect administration policy. Sadly, and dangerously, they appear to be right. Not these arms shipments to Bahrain, nor shipments early last year to Yemen, nor the famous plot to blow up the Saudi ambassador in a restaurant in Washington, D.C. have had the slightest impact on administration policy.
This helps explain why the Arabs are so nervous: they see the United States hell-bent on a nuclear deal and willing to ignore everything else the Iranian regime is doing. It’s an analogue to Obama policy in Syria, where we have embraced a deal on chemical weapons that leaves Assad free to murder as many people as he likes as long as he does not use that one method.
For a couple of years after the protests began in Bahrain, Iran limited itself to broadcasting nasty material in Arabic, and did not try to subvert the country. U.S. officials repeatedly told me we simply had no evidence of armed subversion. Well, now we do. What will the American reaction be? Nothing– you see, this is a delicate moment and we don’t want to upset the nuclear talks. One can only imagine the satisfied laughter such a position causes in Tehran. And the fear it engenders in capitals like Manama, Riyadh, and Abu Dhabi.