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May 10, 2018 11:04 am

‘Israel Is Entitled to Defend Itself’: Bahrain Foreign Minister’s Dramatic Break With Arab Precedent Follows Iranian Missile Assault

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Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa (far right) with fellow Arab foreign ministers in Cairo in July 2017. Photo: Reuters / Khaled Elfiqi.

The foreign minister of Bahrain on Thursday issued an unusually forthright defense of Israel’s sovereign right to defend itself, hours after Iranian forces in Syria aimed a barrage of missiles at the Jewish state, inviting a wave of Israeli air strikes in response.

“As long as Iran has breached the status quo in the region and invaded countries with its forces and missiles, any state in the region, including Israel, is entitled to defend itself by destroying sources of danger,” Sheikh Khalid al-Khalifa, Bahrain’s foreign minister, declared on Twitter.

Several Arab commentators were quick to note the historical significance of al-Khalifa’s comment. “The Bahraini foreign minister’s support for the Israeli strikes marks a rare, if not unprecedented public stance by an Arab government,” Beirut’s Daily Star newspaper observed.

While Israel and Bahrain do not maintain official relations, the two countries interests have increasingly aligned as the Iranian threat to the Arab Gulf states has grown. With its restive Shi’a Muslim majority population, Bahrain — a Sunni Arab monarchy — is regarded as particularly vulnerable to Iranian interference.

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