During the 60’s and 70’s Iran faced especial political changes such that in addition to performing a sensitive role in the region and establishing a stable region it made cordial relations with the neighboring countries. In this period, due to friendly ...
Bahrain’s Isolation from Iran; How and Why?
Niloufar Kasra
During the 60’s and 70’s Iran faced especial political changes such that in addition to performing a sensitive role in the region and establishing a stable region it made cordial relations with the neighboring countries. In this period, due to friendly relations with the US and participation in regional treaties, Iran tried to further act as the US’ powerful hand in the region and achieve political authority in the region by establishing close and intimate relations with the neighboring countries. Especially because the cold war and the US and Russia’s struggles in the Suez Canal and Cambodia caused Nixon’s government to waiver direct interference in Middle East and only suffice to the so called strong and faithful governmental supervision.
In this period, Iran’s main problem was conflict and struggle with Iraq and Syria Baath party, especially Iraq who disagreed with Iran over ruler ship in Shat-al-Arab. Also in the Persian Gulf, Iran talked of its ruler ship over Bahrain and the three islands for years but practically it had no control on any of them for 150 years.
From long ago, Bahrain was important due to its suitable geographical location in the Gulf and good natural ports. The original inhabitants of Bahrain were Iranians and the children of Iranian migrants from between the rivers (Mesopotamia) and later a number of Arabs migrated there from Saudi Arabia because of bad weather.
Iran’s dominance over Bahrain was before Islam and it was called “Gera” at the time of Achamenian. Also this Persian Gulf’s pearl was called “Shemahik” during Sassanid reign. after Islam, Bahrain still belonged to Iran and was considered one of its states, such that this subject is clearly stated in Islamic historical books and sources. Hamd-Allah Mostofi in the Book Nezhat-al-Gholoub in 1339 talks of Bahrain in describing Iran and writes in Farsnameh: “the islands in the Fars Sea are considered Fars Island [states] and the largest of them regarding people and affluence are Kish and Bahrain. Now Bahrain Island is part of Fars and belongs to Iran.”
When the Europeans came to the Persian Gulf in 16th century, Bahrain was function of Hormoz and tributary of its prince. The Portuguese succeeded in occupying Bahrain after gaining Hormoz. Shah Abbas the first was able to run the Portuguese out after he managed the internal disturbances with the help of British east-Indian ships (1602).
It must be noted that when Vasco de Gama the Portuguese sailor discovered India’s route from the south of Africa at the end of the 15th century, countries like Portugal, Holland, France and Britain had made way to the Persian Gulf in pursuit of trade with the east. The Dutch, French and English each founded a commercial company in India and considered the Persian Gulf as a marine highway.
At first the English established commercial relations with Shah Abbas through Shirley brothers (1600) and they were able to gain permission to use Jusk port as a 52 marine and refuel base for the English ship. Of course Shah Abbas restricted the establishment of any kind of facilities on this port so that they don’t later claim ownership. (1756-1777)
After releasing Bahrain, Iran government set Hormoz Island as the center of commerce. At the end of Safavi, the Dutch also became active in the Persian Gulf as a powerful rival and started competing with the English.
The fall of Safavi caused chaos in the political affairs of the south of Iran and formation of local ruler ships and establishment of different Arab tribes in the coasts of Iran. Houleh Arabs were among the tribes who used this chance and occupied Bahrain for several years. With Nader Shah’s empowerment and his extensive measures in suppressing the local authorities, the Persian Gulf status changed. Nader Shah ordered the governor of Fars to attack Bahrain and although the Dutch refused to help Iran, the Iranian forces were able to occupy Bahrain in the absence of Bahrain’s Sheikh and the Iranian governor sent the keys to Bahrain forts to Nader Shah.
In 1783 when Iran was caught up in civil wars and bloody struggles with the successors of Karim Khan Zand, the Atoub tribe Arabs occupied Bahrain and appointed one of their Sheikhs to rule these islands. But when Aqa Mohammad Khan Qajar stabilized his monarchy, he assigned Sheikh Nasr Khan, a tribal chief, advocate of Iran, as governor of Bahrain. Before Aqa Mohammad Khan was murdered at the beginning of 1797, he ordered Sheikh Nasr Khan to ensure the Persian Gulf’s security and punish the king of Muscat who laying hands on Iran’s soil but the king’s sudden death disrupted this plan and the king of Muscat remained the lone ranger of the Persian Gulf.
Up until the central government was powerful and could provide the Persian Gulf’s security the English did not meddle in the Persian Gulf and only were active in the commercial activities. But with the onset of Iran struggles in war with Russia and empowerment of the pirates in the south costs of the Persian Gulf, the English government began working on the security of its marine route with India and gradually established its authority in this marine section; especially because the Iranian government was not able to perform any action in the Persian Gulf and defend its national sovereignty due to lack of marine forces. The English government, in addition to guarding its commercial interests, wanted to prevent the influence of foreign authorities in the Persian Gulf because they could have been a major risk for India. As Napoleon, after attacking Egypt in 1798, negotiated with Fath-Ali Shah in hope of achieving India and Asked for a base in the Persian Gulf to attack India; the English panicked and dissuaded Fath-Ali Shah by making false promises to him.
In the beginning of 1819, captain Bruce, the English fleet commander signed a contract with Hassan-Ali Mirza, the governor of Fars: “until Iran government is not able to provide security in the Persian Gulf this responsibility is with the English government”, thus Iran waivered one of its  important and unquestionable rights in the Persian Gulf.
Following this contract, a fleet comprising of six warships and three thousand sailors from Bombay came to the Persian Gulf. The commander of the fleet was General Sir William Grant Camier who conquered Ra¢s-al-Kheimeh first with its artillery force and then occupied the emirates one after the other without conflict and through serious resistance. after the operation, the English military commander negotiated with each of the sheikhs. From 6th to 11th January 1820 he signed contracts with the Arab Sheikhs according to which the 11 Sheikhs agreed to stop wars and piracy against each other. The Sheikh of Bahrain also signed this contract and this was the beginning of England’s support of the region under discussion until in May 31st 1861 and according to a contract, Bahrain, in which oil was recently discovered, was officially under control of England.
Immediately after Iran was informed of this contract, objected but England did not take notice. several year later, with the help of Sheikh Khalifah’s son (Sheikh Eisa) and revolt against his dominion, it occupied Bahrain.
This situation continued until Reza Khan gained power. After occupying Khuzestan and ending Sheikh khaz¢al affair, he again posed the matter of Iran’s claim on Bahrain and referred Iran and Bahrain’s disagreement to the League of Nations in November 1027 but with no luck. Recognition of Iraq, who was supported by England from May 10th 1928 and the border disagreements between Iran and Iraq and finally dispute over Shat-al-Arab was among the factors which influenced lack of pursuit of Iran’s claim over Bahrain.
After the Second World War, Iran posed its claim over Bahrain once more and referred it to the United nations. on November 12th 1952m Bahrain was stated as the fourteenth state but the news of discharge of England’s forces from the Persian Gulf, the theory of “regional superior force” to control the Persian Gulf which was called Arabic Gulf by the Arab countries in the region, tempted the Shah and Iran government to gain ruler ship over the three islands in the Hormoz strait (Greater and lesser Tonb and Abomasa) instead of Bahrain. On the other hand the old colonizer spread the rumor of Bahrain’s unimportance due to exhaustion of its oil and the pettiness of pearl market using the dependent figures between statesmen and courtiers and the Shah who was tempted to gain the post of regional gendarme in the Middle East sought a solution and negotiated with England. With the news of discharge of English forces from the Persian Gulf, the region’s emirates decided on forming a political union including Bahrain Qatar and 17 coastal emirates but Iran opposed the presence of Bahrain in this union in 1968.
The Saudi Arabian King’s statement regarding how the Arabs must replace England in the region and welcoming Eisa-ibn-Salman Al Khalifa (Bahrain’s governor) as an independent country in Riyadh, caused conflict between the two countries of Iran and Saudi Arabia and Iran cancelled its visit from the King of Saudi Arabia. finally in 1968, the Shah of Iran announced that Bahrain’s ruler ship is dependent on the people of Bahrain and in a letter to the United Nations’ secretary general requested a referendum and poll taking from the people of Bahrain. the united nations’ especial agent announced after two weeks research that: “the majority of Bahrain people request independence.” The security council officially recognized Bahrain’s independence according to the agent’s report and through resolution number 278 dated May 11th 1970.
In December 1971, as soon as the English forces left the Persian Gulf, the Iran marine force entered the three islands of Abomasa, greater Tonb and lesser Tonb according to Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s order and occupied them. It must be noted that Bahrain’s independence was never put to referendum and after the Islamic Revolution in 1979, demonstrations occurred by the Shiite in Bahrain and oppositions took place which continue to date.
Your Name
Your Email Address