Bahrain has expelled a senior Iranian diplomat, intensifying tensions between the Island monarchy and neighbouring Iran.
Bahrain News Agency reported on Tuesday that Hojjatollah Rahmani, the second secretary of the Iranian embassy in Bahrain, is now persona non grata, ordered to leave Bahrain in 72 hours. According to this report, the order was given on Monday.
Ramin Mehmanparast, a spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry denied any wrongdoing by diplomats, saying Iran reserves the right to respond in kind.
Mehmanparast said the move was an attempt to divert attention from Bahrain’s internal problems. He accused Bahrain of endangering regional stability and unity.
Bahrain has been facing widespread protests since February. Last month it declared martial law and called on its partners in the Gulf Cooperation Council to assist it in crushing the protests.
Currently 1,500 Saudi and UAE troops are in Bahrain trying to quash what they see as a Shiite uprising that threatens the Sunni monarchies of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
The majority of Bahrainis are Shiites. While Tehran has no historical ties to the Bahraini Shiites, it has condemned the presence of foreign troops in Bahrain and the crackdown on peaceful protests.
Bahrain’s government has announced that the Saudi forces will remain indefinitely to counter potential threats from Iran.
Bahraini opposition has denied any ties with Iran and insists that its only goals are respect for human rights and greater political freedom.