The Arabic version of this article is available here.
by Ahmad Sas - On the margins of the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom meeting (18 July 2019) the United States’ Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, received Bahrain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, to discuss a broad range bilateral relations and regional issues, including ways to develop and protect religious freedom, tolerance and respect. Secretary Pompeo recognised Bahrain’s commitment to promoting peace and prosperity in the Middle East and reiterated a thank-you to Manama for hosting the Peace to Prosperity workshop—which aimed to build confidence between the main protagonists in the Palestine-Israel conflict. Discussions between Pompeo and Shaikh Khalid also focused on the bubbling tensions and heightened security risks generated by the Islamic Republic of Iran and the activities of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)—in the region and beyond. This meeting is one in a long-string of cooperative measures between Washington and Manama.
Bahrain has, historically, played a key role in regional security; the US considers it as a core ally. This alliance was formalised in October 1991 with the signing of the Defence Cooperation Agreement that granted the US forces access to Bahrain’s military facilities and ensured the right to pre-position military materials for future crises. In 1993, the US based the headquarters of its Fifth Fleet in Al Juffair, Bahrain. Manama was also the first Arab state to lead a coalition task force patrolling Arab Gulf waters and has lent its support to major counter-piracy operations. Furthermore, as a result of its contributions to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, Bahrain was officially classified (in 2002) by the US as a Major Non-NATO Ally. Finally, Bahrain is an active member in the coalition organized to combat terrorism, it participated in the Global Coalition against ISIS, and it has proven to be instrumental in helping the US, and its NATO allies, interdict terror finance.
With tensions in the Arab Gulf escalating the US-Bahrain partnership is crucial to securing the Sea Lines of Communication and insuring the uninterrupted freedom of navigation. Secretary Pompeo’s meeting with Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa corresponds with Bahrain’s intentions to host a global maritime security conference, as a follow up to the International Conference in Support of Security and Peace in the Middle East held in Warsaw in February 2019. The Bahrain-US relationship is dynamic and mutually supportive since both Washington and Manama share the same fundamental beliefs in preserving stability in the Arab Gulf and restraining those entrepreneurial powers, like Iran, from plunging the region into perpetual chaos.
19 July 2019