A close advisor to Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei recently wrote that the country of Bahrain was a province of Iran. Hossein Shariatmadari, editor of the hard-line, state-approved Iranian newspaper, "Kayhan," made the claim in an editorial. "Kayhan" is widely regarded as a mouthpiece for Mr. Khamenei.
The claim that Bahrain belongs to Iran provoked outrage and protests in Bahrain's capital, Manama. A visit by Iran's foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki quickly followed. At a press conference in Bahrain, Mr. Mottaki said that the two countries "respect each other's sovereignty and territorial integrity."
U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the claim that Bahrain is a province of Iran was alarming not only to the citizens of Bahrain but to everybody in the Gulf region. It was, he says, one more "in a series of outrageous statements out of the Iranian leadership":
"You have [Iranian] President [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad multiple times talking about wiping Israel off the map. Now they've shifted their focus to Bahrain and they want to gobble up Bahrain. Well, I think it's another indication of how this is a regime that operates completely outside the accepted norms of international behavior."
Iran is a great country with a great culture, says Mr. McCormack, and nobody wants to deny the Iranian people their rightful place in the world. Unfortunately, he says, the Iranian government is taking Iran in the wrong direction:
"When you string together these comments from the leadership, when you string together all [their] actions – from preventing American citizens from leaving [Iran], from detaining British sailors and marines, to defying the will of the international community on the nuclear front, to continuing to support those forces in Iraq who want to destabilize that country – what you have is a picture of a country that is one hundred and eighty degrees opposite in its policy orientation than where most of the world is."
"The net effect of these statements and these actions. . . .is unfortunate for the Iranian people," says State Department spokesman McCormack. "But they need to understand that it's their leadership that is causing their country to find itself in a state of greater and greater isolation."