- The Washington Times - Friday, May 10, 2013

The United States and much of the rest of the world depend on oil from the Persian Gulf. If the Persian Gulf or the Strait of Hormuz were obstructed or closed, the economies of many countries, including the United States, would be adversely affected. It could be catastrophic.

One of the greatest allies we have in the Gulf is Bahrain. The U.S. 5th Fleet is stationed there. Bahrain has been a great friend for many decades. The former U.S. ambassador to Bahrain, Sam Zakhem, reminds me that during the Iran-Iraq war, when the U.S.S. Stark was hit by missiles from Iraq and was in danger of sinking, King Hamad Al-Khalifa, then the minister of defense, personally directed the search-and-rescue mission, which saved the ship and rescued 172 American sailors.

Bahrain is threatened by Iranian agents who are working with demonstration leaders and some radical clerics, such as the Ayatollah Isa Qassim, to overthrow the government. The United States as well as Britain and other Western countries are aware of the threat Iran poses in the region. We must make it clear that Bahrain is our friend and ally, and we will not let Iran and radicals like Ayatollah Qassim, a supporter of Iran’s goals, overthrow the government. The king and the crown prince, Salman Al-Khalifa, worked to create an independent commission to recommend changes to help meet the demonstrators’ demands, but the leaders of the opposition, including the ayatollah, will not allow meetings that could resolve many of the issues. If the countries across the Gulf from Iran were to fall to the radical ideas and goals of Iran, I think a major war would be unavoidable.

To avoid a conflict, the United States and our allies must make it clear to Iran and the radical groups that we will help defend Bahrain and our friends in the Gulf, and there is a line that Iran crosses at its own peril.

DAN BURTON

Former U.S. representative

Indianapolis