Call to combat Hizbollah’s growing influence

A TOP Bahraini diplomat has called for an “international response” to militant group Hizbollah’s growing influence in the world, including the US.

Bahrain’s Ambassador to the US Shaikh Abdulla bin Rashid Al Khalifa also urged President Donald Trump’s administration to step up arms sales to the kingdom to defeat what he described as a “common enemy”.

GCC countries, including Bahrain, last month placed top Hizbollah leaders on their terrorism list, including chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and his deputy Naim Qassem.

“Hizbollah has long been Tehran’s extremist proxy, meddling almost everywhere in Middle Eastern affairs,” Shaikh Abdulla wrote in a comment that was published in the Chicago-based political news website, RealClear Politics.

“It was founded three decades ago by the Iranian Revolution Guards (Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps – IRGC) and has since recruited, trained and armed militants in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan and, now sadly, in my own country of Bahrain.”

Shaikh Abdulla said Bahrain is America’s oldest ally in the Middle East and the relationship between the two countries has strengthened in the global war on terrorism – “especially against the Iran-backed subversive group Hizbollah”.

He said Hizbollah-trained insurgents have sown unrest in Bahrain since 2013.

“Its influence there persists despite repeated efforts by the government to eradicate the menace.

“Last March, for example, Bahraini officials arrested 14 individuals suspected of receiving military training from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Hizbollah.

“Hizbollah has also been connected to terrorist attacks in Bahraini villages that have injured 3,400 people and killed 22 security officers.

“Hizbollah has even tried to form a terrorist front organisation in Bahrain,” said the envoy while crediting Bahraini law enforcement officials for thwarting the attempts.

Shaikh Abdulla stated the spread of terrorism by Hizbollah and its allies has become “a pandemic that has reached the US”.

“In fact, Hizbollah’s presence in the US is cause for concern.

“Arrests of individuals associated with the group recently occurred in New York City and Dearborn, Michigan.

“Other outbreaks of Hizbollah influence in the US are sure to surface soon,” he warned, adding that though the militant organisation might not be spreading physically, it was winning over militant backers through its ideology.

“As a result, its actions must be recognised as a global threat that warrant an international response.”

Shaikh Abdulla cited example of the US Fifth Fleet in Juffair that plays a key role for military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“We also have worked together against the terrorist threat, a partnership that needs to be expanded now that our common enemy, Hizbollah, has infiltrated the US and Bahrain.

“We are encouraged that Congress has approved measures to block the flow of illicit funds to extremist groups and to increase sanctions against them.

“It is vital for the US to publicly assert how important it is for it to work with its allies like Bahrain to beat back terrorism.”

Calling on US authorities to tighten the noose around Hizbollah, Shaikh Abdulla said. “Bahrain’s problem with Hizbollah is America’s problem, too.”

The US should complain loudly – more loudly than it already has – that Iran-backed extremists such as the Hizbollah are a universal menace.

“(The US) needs to work harder with its friends like Bahrain to defeat this scourge.

“Additional arms sales to Bahrain for this purpose should be seriously considered by the US Congress and the Trump administration,” urged the diplomat.

Meanwhile, outlawed Bahraini militant group Saraya Al Mukhtar (The Chosen Brigades), which has been branded a terrorist outfit by the UK, has reportedly changed its logo and branding it similar to the IRGC.

This was revealed in a report published on American website FDD’s Long War Journal (LWJ) that said the new logo adhered to the IRGC-branding found with various Iranian-backed militias in the Middle East, including Hizbollah, the Badr Organisation and the Hizbollah Brigades in Iraq.

“While Saraya Al Mukhtar’s logo change is more subtle than that of another IRGC-backed Bahraini militia Saraya al Ashtar the group’s intentions with the new logo are still clear,” said the report.

“This now makes two Bahraini Shia militia with more overt IRGC branding.

“It’s not a surprising development since Iran has redoubled sponsorship of militant groups in Bahrain in recent years.”

The logo of Saraya Al Mukhtar was posted last year on the Twitter account of Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa after it was hacked.

Several members of the group have been prosecuted for targeting Bahrain’s policemen and supplying rioting and bomb-making materials used in attacks on security services.

This article provided by NewsEdge.