Bahrain’s foreign minister has called on Arab countries to unite and confront Iran over its alleged support for militias in the region.
Speaking at an emergency session of the Arab League in Cairo on Sunday, Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa said that Bahrain had been inflicted by “thousands of wounds” by Iran.
“Iran has arms in the region, the largest of which is Hezbollah,” said the foreign minister, referring to Tehran’s Lebanese ally, adding that Iran threatened the security of Arab states.
Bahrain has seen scores of incidents of violence since 2011 when tens of thousands of the country’s majority Shia Muslims demanded reforms and greater rights from the minority Sunni-controlled kingdom.
Bahrain crushed the protests with the help of its Sunni Arab Gulf allies suspicious of Iran and opposed to a growing Shia influence across the region.
The special summit in the Egypt, which comes amid heightened tensions between Riyadh and Tehran over Lebanon, was requested by Saudi Arabia to discuss alleged “violations” committed by Iran in the Middle East.
Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit told the summit that a missile that was recently fired by Houthi rebels from Yemen towards the Saudi capital Riyadh, was “Iranian-made”, describing it as an “unacceptable Iranian message”.
The Houthis have repeatedly denied receiving any assistance from Tehran in Yemen’s war, claiming the Burkan 2-H missile was produced in Yemen from modified weaponry.
In his opening remarks in Cairo, Adel al-Jubeir, Saudi foreign minister, condemned Iranian activity in the region.
“This swift response reflects the gravity of the situation our countries are facing, and the region’s stability and security is facing as a result of the ballistic missiles violations of Iran and the blunt interference in the domestic affairs of Arab countries,” he said.
Jubeir added that Tehran was aiming “to destabilise and fuel sectarian rift among the people and to drive a wedge between ourselves and our people”.
Lebanon’s state-run NNA media said the country’s foreign minister would not attend the Cairo meeting. It will be represented by its representative to the Arab League, Antoine Azzam, it added.
Tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran have soared since Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s shock resignation on November 4, citing Iran’s “grip” on his country and threats to his life.
Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, said Saudi Arabia had convened the Cairo meeting in a bid to “consolidate its position in a divided Arab region”, hoping that there will condemnation of Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon, as well as of the Houthis.
“The Arab world is divided and a lot of countries convened to Cairo today dont see eye to eye with Saudi Arabia on its ways and means or how it plans to confront Iran in the region,” he said.
“That doesn’t mean they agree to the escalation of Iranian interference in various Arab countries, but paradoxically it was the incompetence and the division among those Arab countries that was the main factor why Iran is able to expand its influence in the region,” added Bishara.