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“But essentially, it’s like asking the jury to disregard an unacceptable comment in the courtoom. You can’t strike it from the record.”

Mr. Jones, who served as a Bahrain-based consultant for the International Crisis Group from 2003 to 2006, said he found the Foreign Ministry statement more interesting for what it did not say.

“They didn’t correct or place into context her implication that Iran has its eye on Bahrain,” he said. “That seems like a pretty significant oversight.”

“It wasn’t too long ago that the Iranians routinely made claims on Bahrain,” said Steven A. Cook, senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. “Iran’s ability to throw its weight around the region is a major cause for concern for Bahrain and a reason why it has been willing to host the 5th Fleet.”

“That said, the Bahrainis — like all the small Gulf states — have been careful to hedge their bets, given that they are not at all clear about Washington’s intentions and policies,” he said. “They don’t trust ‘engagement’ and after Iraq, they aren’t convinced that the United States has the will to undertake military action. That’s why the Foreign Ministry walked the ambassador’s comments back.”