Bahrain in the coalition against Yemen: reasons and motivations

The security and political crises in the Middle East are approaching the acute point and monitoring the behavior of the effective actors in these crises is very necessary and strategic. The purpose of this short analysis is to address Bahrains behavior towards the transformations in Yemen:
3 February 2024
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Seyed Mohammad Hoseini

The security and political crises in the Middle East are approaching the acute point, and monitoring the behavior of the effective actors in these crises is very necessary and strategic. The purpose of this short analysis is to address Bahrain's behavior towards the transformations in Yemen:

After the Security Council issued a resolution against Yemen regarding the attack on commercial ships to/from the destination of Israel, military attacks were carried out by a coalition of countries led by the United States and England, attacks that will probably continue. America, England, Canada, Australia, Netherlands, and Bahrain are participating countries in this military coalition against Yemen. Bahrain is the only country from West Asia and the Persian Gulf region that is present in this coalition, but why Bahrain?

There is no doubt that the US made arrangements with Saudi Arabia and the UAE before attacking Yemen. Still, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates chose not to publicly participate in this coalition. Here is the basic question:

What factor or factors caused Bahrain to directly participate in this coalition and bear its possible costs in the future? Certainly, America and its allies do not need the military power of a small regional power like Bahrain to attack Yemen. At first glance, this answer comes to mind that the establishment of American naval bases in Bahrain and the use of these bases in military operations against Yemen has created the necessity of Bahrain's participation in the coalition, but this is also not the answer to our problem because America can use these bases without the direct participation of Bahrain. Bahrain's behavior should be looked for in other issues.

It seems that Bahrain participated in this coalition because Al-Khalifa considers his country to be a loser in the face of future political and security trends in the Persian Gulf, and the only way to survive and reduce its vulnerability to future trends is to strengthen the bandwagon policy. In other words, Bahrain feels serious danger from the political and security future of the Persian Gulf. Just the opposite of Qatar, Saudi Arabia and, to some extent, the UAE, envision many political and security opportunities for themselves in the future trends in the Persian Gulf. Based on this, Bahrain is trying to strengthen its security connection with America so that it will be less damaged in future regional trends.

Another question is, which future regional trends does Al-Khalifa feel threatened by? In response, the following can be listed:

1) The process of changing the nature of American intervention in the Persian Gulf region; the offshore balancing model is an unfavorable scenario for Bahrain because in this model, the US will carry out security and political campaigns mainly with the help of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Qatar, and due to Bahrain's military incapacity and limited political weight, it will refuse to transfer responsibility to Bahrain

2) The change in the direction of the balance of power in the region from the side of external actors to internal actors (endogenous regionalism order) will also be detrimental to Bahrain. The survival of small powers like Bahrain depends on the presence and direct intervention of America and exogenous regional order. The desire of regional countries to create an endogenous regional order, which is provided by the model of offshore intervention from America, is to the detriment of Bahrain.

3) A small power like Bahrain pursues its survival and security guarantee by increasing the security bipolarity between Iran and Saudi Arabia and, on a larger level, between the resistance front and the Western-Arab front. As much as this bipolarity is intensified, the possibility of Bahrain's survival will increase. In this strategy, Bahrain is also in common with the Zionist regime because Israel also follows the strategy of polarization between Iran and the Arab countries. One of the main reasons for the normalization of relations between Israel and the Persian Gulf countries is the polarization between Iran and the Arab countries of the region. The normalization of Bahrain's relations with Israel should also be sought in this matter. Bahrain pursues, firstly, the exogenous regional order through normalization and, secondly, increasing regional bipolarity. Closing or postponing the normalization process of the Arabs Israel is extremely detrimental to Bahrain.

4) The increase in competition between the great powers in the Persian Gulf with the entry of China and Russia into this region is also detrimental to Bahrain. China's entry into the region brings stability and strengthens the economic campaigns of the region. The stability of the region and the strengthening of economic campaigns, although it creates opportunities and benefits for Bahrain, in the long run, can increase the vulnerability of Bahrain's political and economic security.

5) Saudi de-escalation with Iran also has opportunities and threats. The most important threat to the revival of Iran-Saudi relations is the reduction of bipolarity and the increase of endogenous trends in the region.

6) Considering the development plan of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Qatar, the seriousness of the Islamic Republic of Iran in its neighborhood policy, the reduction of the US presence, and the increase of China's activity in the Persian Gulf, it is expected that we will witness an increase in the stability factors and a decrease in the tension factors in the region, which this process is not favorable for Bahrain from a political point of view.

7) Bahrain feels threatened by Saudi Arabia in the long term and imagines that with the upcoming transformations in Saudi domestic and foreign policy, Riyadh may actually reduce its security obligations towards Bahrain.

8) Qatar's increase in power in various dimensions is not favorable for Bahrain. Al-Khalifa does not like the distance between Qatar and Bahrain to increase in various political, security, and economic fields.

9) In terms of economy, the two trends of the Persian Gulf countries turning towards Asia and the integration process in the global value chain are ongoing in the region, and Bahrain is far behind its competitors and neighbors in this regard.

Therefore, Al-Khalifa has joined the Western military coalition in the attack on Yemen in order to ensure its survival, reduce its vulnerability, and compensate for its lags in the above trends.

Seyyed Mohammad Hosseini, a senior expert at the IPIS

(The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the IPIS)

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