Iran, Assad Regime Using Palestinians to Train Bahraini Terrorists
Palestinian terrorists belonging to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), the Palestine Liberation Army (PLA), and Hezbollah have trained Bahraini Shiite terrorists in camps near Damascus. Dissident Syrian military officers told the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat that the Assad regime and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) supervised the training.
Iran’s embassy in Damascus provided logistical and material support for the terrorist training. IRGC Quds Force leader Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani also reportedly was involved. PFLP-GC and the PLA remained loyal to Iran and the Assad regime throughout Syria’s seven-year civil war.
The Bahraini terrorist trainees reportedly were taught to manufacture and use explosives. The training took place in regime-held territory near Damascus, because Western and Arab intelligence operatives are well established in Iraq and Lebanon. Previous training by Hezbollah took place in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley.
Bahraini terrorists have been trained in this way since 2008, in groups ranging from 15 to 30 fighters, a dissident Syrian officer told Al-Hayat. “They are moving to follow up with other courses in Lebanon and Iran.”
Iran has been involved in destabilizing Bahrain, its Persian Gulf neighbor. Bahraini officials arrested more than 116 people on terrorism charges and for plotting attacks on government officials in March. They accused the IRGC of being behind this Bahraini terrorist network. IRGC commander Gen. Saeed Qasemi urged Iran to “annex” Bahrain in 2016.
Last month, Bahraini authorities detained 169 people, accusing them of trying to form “Bahrain’s Hezbollah” in collaboration with Iranian intelligence. Under this plot, Bahraini youths were sent to the Shiite holy city of Qom in Iran under the pretext of their undertaking a religious pilgrimage. From there they were sent to camps run by the IRGC. Iran’s leadership pressured Assad to let them train the Bahrainis in Syria to evade detection by foreign intelligence services.
This is the latest example of Iran using Syria as a base to exert its power — and export terrorism — in the region.
John Rossomando is a senior analyst at The Investigative Project on Terrorism.