August 07, 2007

Countries Threatened with Extinction

From Daniel Pipes:

Quiz time: Which Middle Eastern country disappeared from the map not long ago for more than six months?

Answer: Kuwait, which disappeared from August 1990 to February 1991, becoming Iraq's 19th province. This brutal conquest by Saddam Hussein culminated intermittent Iraqi claims going back to the 1930s. Restoring Kuwait's sovereignty required a huge American-led expeditionary force of more than half a million soldiers.

This history comes to mind because an Iranian spokesman recently enunciated a somewhat similar threat against Bahrain. Hossein Shariatmadari, an associate of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and editor of the daily newspaper Kayhan, published an op-ed on July 9 in which he claimed: "Bahrain is part of Iran's soil, having been separated from it through an illegal conspiracy [spawned] by ... Shah [Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, along with] the American and British governments." Referring to Bahrain's majority Shiite population, Mr. Shariatmadari went on to claim, without any proof: "The principal demand of the Bahraini people today is to return this province … to its mother, Islamic Iran."

These comments, the Middle East Media and Research Institute (MEMRI) reports, "caused a storm in Bahrain," with protesters outside the Iranian Embassy, severe statements by the government, alarmed resolutions by both houses of parliament, and even a fatwa prescribing death for Bahrainis who should endorse this Iranian irredentism. Other Persian Gulf states joined in with equally scathing statements.

The subject is a sensitive one. Tehran's claims on Bahrain go back to 1958, when it declared the island to be Iran's 14th province, even apportioning it two seats in the national parliament. Although the shah formally recognized Bahrain's independence in 1970, claims such as Mr. Shariatmadari's have surfaced episodically and are reminiscent of periodic Iraqi claims to Kuwait before 1990.
Click here to read more on the absurdity of seeing the Arab-Israeli conflict as the force of the entire region's problems. Each endangered Arab state faces its own unique circumstances; none of them drives regional politics as a whole. Solving the Arab-Israeli conflict does no more than solve that specific conflict.