Bahrain's Hezbollah Problem Is America's Problem Too

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Bahrain's Hezbollah Problem Is America's Problem Too
AP Photo/Bassem Mroue, File
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Bahrain is the America’s oldest ally in the Middle East. Our relationship has grown and deepened for more than a century. The global war on terrorism has only strengthened those ties. Bahrain stands shoulder to shoulder with President Trump and the U.S. government in this battle, especially against the Iran-backed subversive group Hezbollah. 

Hezbollah has long been Tehran’s extremist proxy, meddling almost everywhere in Middle Eastern affairs. It was founded three decades ago by the Iranian Revolution Guards and has since recruited, trained, and armed militants in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan and, now sadly, in my own country of Bahrain

Hezbollah-trained insurgents have sown unrest in Bahrain since 2013. Its influence there persists despite repeated efforts by the government to eradicate the menace. Last March, for example, Bahraini officials arrested 14 individuals suspected of receiving military training from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah. Hezbollah has also been connected to terrorist attacks in Bahraini villages that have injured 3,400 people and killed 22 security officers. Hezbollah has even tried to form a terrorist front organization in Bahrain. Fortunately, Bahraini law enforcement officials thwarted that effort and others like it – so far. 

The spread of terrorism by Hezbollah and its allies has become a pandemic that has reached the U.S. In fact, Hezbollah’s presence in the U.S. is cause for concern. Arrests of individuals associated with the group recently occurred in New York City and Dearborn, Mich. Other outbreaks of Hezbollah influence in the U.S. are sure to surface soon. 

Hezbollah is spreading not so much as a physical presence but as an ideology that is winning militant backers. As a result, its actions must be recognized as a global threat that warrant an international response. 

Bahrain’s relationship with the U.S. is solid and diverse. The U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet is located on our coastline. Bahrain is also proudly an outpost for U.S. military operations, a logistical pipeline to ferry troops and provisions, and the place from which U.S. fighter jets deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq. We also have worked together against the terrorist threat, a partnership that needs to be expanded now that our common enemy, Hezbollah, has infiltrated the U.S. along with Bahrain. 

We are encouraged that Congress has approved measures to block the flow of illicit funds to extremist groups and to increase sanctions against them. It is vital for the U.S. to publicly assert how important it is for it to work with its allies like Bahrain to beat back terrorism. The situation demands that the U.S. and Bahrain bolster their bonds and cooperation along these lines. 

Bahrain’s problem with Hezbollah is America’s problem, too. The U.S. should complain loudly – more loudly than it already is – that Iran-backed extremists such as Hezbollah are a universal menace. It needs to work harder with its friends like Bahrain to defeat this scourge. Additional arms sales to Bahrain for this purpose should be seriously considered by the U.S. Congress and the Trump administration. Only when we work together in this way can we protect our mutual security.

Shaikh Abdullah bin Rashid Al Khalifa is the Kingdom of Bahrain’s ambassador to the U.S.



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