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Cable reveals Bahrain’s secret contact with Israel

Link with Jewish state touchy issue in Arab world

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The Persian Gulf kingdom of Bahrain has had secret contacts with Israel's Mossad intelligence service, according to a leaked U.S. diplomatic cable.

The cable reportedly was sent to Washington from the U.S. Embassy in Manama, the capital of Bahrain, after a Feb. 15, 2005, meeting between then-U.S. Ambassador William Monroe and Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.

"[The king] revealed that Bahrain already has contacts with Israel at the intelligence/security level (ie with Mossad) and indicated that Bahrain will be willing to move forward in other areas," the cable said.

The king also told the ambassador that he had ordered his public information minister to stop calling Israel the "enemy" or the "Zionist entity" in official statements of the kingdom, said the cable, which was released by the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.

The Israeli newspapers Haaretz and Yedioth Ahronoth recently published reports based on the cable.

The cable's revelation comes at a delicate time for Bahrain's Sunni royal family, which invited troops from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states last month to help quell an uprising by the country's Shiite majority.

"In the Arab world, they hate this sort of thing and in Bahrain I'm sure it will be yet another sin [for the opposition] to beat the government with," said Simon Henderson, a Gulf anaylst for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

"It will also not be particularly welcomed by supporters of the government, even though they might half understand that to counter Iran, the government needs to deal with a whole variety of people," he said.

Bahraini officials could not be reached for comment.

A leading pro-government lawmaker insisted that the information about contacts with Mossad "cannot be true" because Bahraini intelligence officers "still consider [Israel] an enemy."

Adel al-Moawda, second deputy chairman of Bahrain's Representative Council, also speculated that the cable might have resulted from confusion: "We know some Americans are Jews and maybe they are in the secret police in America — people might consider them as part of the Mossad — so information can get scattered here and there."

Egypt and Jordan are the only Arab states that have formal diplomatic ties with Israel.

But according to cables previously released by WikiLeaks, Israel has maintained covert ties with several Arab states — particularly those in the Persian Gulf, like Bahrain, that fear Iran's spreading influence.

For example, a March 2009 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv quotes Yaacov Hadas, a senior Israeli foreign ministry official, describing Israel's growing engagement with the Gulf states.

"Hadas said the Gulf Arabs believe in Israel's role because of their perception of Israel's close relationship with the U.S. but also due to their sense that they can count on Israel against Iran. 'They believe Israel can work magic,' Hadas commented," the cable says.

That cable described Israel's ties with Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, but not Bahrain.

Bahrain has had occasional diplomatic contacts with Israel since the 1990s, though opposition to dealings with the Jewish state remains one of the few issues in Bahrain on which Shiites and Sunnis agree.

The parliament outlawed all contacts with Israel in 2009, two years after Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa held a meeting with then-Israeli counterpart Tzipi Livni at the United Nations.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

About the Author

Ben Birnbaum

Ben Birnbaum is a reporter covering foreign affairs for The Washington Times. Prior to joining The Times, Birnbaum worked as a reporter-researcher at the New Republic. A Boston-area native, he graduated magna cum laude from Cornell University with a degree in government and psychology. He won multiple collegiate journalism awards for his articles and columns in the Cornell Daily Sun.

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