The Iranian regime may have backed off of a ballistic missile test following President Trump’s sanctions and threats, but its jihad through proxies continues unabated. The U.S.-allied government of Bahrain just wrapped up another Iranian sleeper cell network that was planning to attack the base of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, according to the Bahraini government.
The announcement came after Bahrain arrested 14 terror suspects, 11 of which were allegedly trained directly by Iran and its barely concealed puppets. Six were trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), five by the Iraqi branch of Hezbollah and three got their training inside Bahrain.
The cell was led by two Bahrainis operating inside Iran, Qassim Abdullah Ali and Mortada Majid Al-Sanadi. The U.S. State Department designated al-Sanadi as a terrorist on March 17, confirming he was acting as an Iranian agent in backing the Al-Ashtar Brigades terrorist group in Bahrain.
The cell was planning assassinations of various public officials, according to the announcement. Explosives and communications devices were seized from their residences.
The same network allegedly committed a bombing of a bus used by the Bahraini police in February that injured four police officers. The bombing came after the Bahraini authorities killed three suspected terrorists in a shootout as they tried to flee to Iran. In January, two Bahraini police officers were killed in attacks.
Bahrain also claimed to arrest 54 suspected terrorists in early March for attacking security personnel, stealing weaponry and committing a jail break.
Iran’s attacks on Bahrain and plotted attacks on the U.S. presence there is more than just the usual jihad against Sunni Arabs and the U.S. military. Iran has said explicitly that it ultimately seeks to conquer Bahrain—not influence its behavior, not expel the U.S. military, not overthrow the Sunni royal family so the 70% Shiite population is fairly represented—but conquer.
The founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini, declared that Bahrain is the 14th Province of Iran and that stance remains unaltered. In 2009, a top aide to Iran’s current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the same.
Only weeks ago, the leader of the IRGC called on his country to annex Bahrain, saying, “Bahrain is an Iranian province that was detached from the Islamic Republic of Iran due to Western colonialism.”
Last summer, he explicitly said there would be “armed resistance” inside Bahrain that would topple the royal family in response to a crackdown on the Shiite opposition.
The Iranian regime sees Bahrain as stolen territory and, more importantly, is ideologically committed to annexing it as a means of fulfilling End Times prophecies.
“[Bahrain is] the best opportunity to begin setting the stage for the emergence of the 12th imam, our mahdi,” said a representative of Khamenei in 2011.
The 12th imam or mahdi is a figure that appears in Shiite End Times prophecies to bring about a final victory over the enemies of Islam during a bloody war. The regime believes it is fulfilling a sequence of prophecies to trigger this apocalyptic event.
The civil war in Syria is likewise seen as a stepping stone towards the mahdi’s appearance. Destabilizing Saudi Arabia is another big step and annexing Bahrain (or at least turning Bahrain into a battlefield) would go a long way into making that happen.
In 2011, massive protests erupted in Bahrain, which Iran rooted for and tried to turn into a violent uprising, hoping that the 70% Shiite population would kick out the ruling Sunni royal family that is already facing internal divisions.
The Bahraini regime was saved by military intervention from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Iran responded by sending a flotilla to deliver aid to the protestors, which the Arabs threatened to fire upon. It turned back at the last moment.
Iran’s unofficial war with Bahrain continued nonetheless, including a plot to kill the king and other senior officials in 2012.
Look at the extent to which Iran is fighting to save the Assad regime in Syria. It has undertaken enormous expense it can ill afford.
If that’s what Iran is willing to do to protect its most important ally, imagine what Iran is willing to do to “reclaim” its territory next door and, in the process, expel a critical U.S. base, enhance its strategic position (such as by threatening the Strait of Hormuz), potentially destabilize Saudi Arabia and set the stage for the prophesied appearance of the mahdi.
As long as the Iranian regime is in power, we must consider Bahrain as a flashpoint with the potential to replicate the horrors of the Syrian civil war.
Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org’s national security analyst and an adjunct professor of homeland security. Mauro is frequently interviewed on top-tier television and radio. To invite Ryan to speak please contact us.