A LEADING international politics expert has dismissed claims that Bahrain's unrest was part of the so-called Arab Spring.
The main trigger of anti-government protests was part of continued efforts by Iran to destabilise the country, says Central European Journal of International and Security Studies founder and editor-in-chief Mitchell Belfer.
"Bahrain's place in the region's upheavals remains deeply misunderstood," he wrote in the Wall Street Journal.
"Bahrain is not just another falling domino in the Arab Spring. Nor is it experiencing a surge of spontaneous resistance by its people against their rulers.
"Rather, Bahrain is the victim of a long cycle of intrigue and interference aimed at replacing the moderate and modernising Khalifa regime with a theocracy under Tehran's thumb.
"This spring, as protesters camped out in Manama's Pearl Square (sic) by night and hurled stones by day, Iran mobilised its public-relations teams, which read scripted newscasts denouncing the Al Khalifa family.
"Meanwhile, Tehran's military drafted intervention plans.
"Western observers and governments took the bait and shied away from addressing the true origins of the violence, instead urging Bahrain to show restraint."
To further emphasise Iranian influence on events in Bahrain during February and March, Mr Belfer pointed to similar incidents during the last 30 years.
"Iranian subversion began in December 1981, when the Tehran-based Islamic Front for the Liberation of Bahrain (IFLB) attempted a high-profile coup," he said.
"An Iranian-trained team of Shi'ite Bahrainis were to simultaneously attack telecommunications services and Bahrain's airport and assassinate key members of the Al Khalifa regime.
"In the ensuing chaos, Iran would send in its military and establish a new theocratic regime similar to its own.
"The coup failed, but the experience spurred the formation of the Gulf Co-operation Council, which today includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE."
According to Mr Belfer, the failed coup did nothing to stop Iran's efforts to extend its power.
"When unemployed Bahrainis rallied at their government's Labour Ministry in 1994, Iran filled the country with propaganda advocating a Shi'ite intifada characterised by democracy and equality.
"Tehran even offered to mediate as the 'Days of Rage' grew in ferocity and Bahrainis faced daily acts of violence in the unrest, which lasted until 1999.
"Mounting evidence of Iran's duplicity prompted the US to permanently station its Fifth Fleet in Manama in 1995.
"Taking the move as a provocation, Tehran intensified its intifada and began training Bahraini Shi'ite fighters in Iran.
"Among other efforts, Tehran established a military wing for Hizbollah in Bahrain, which attempted another coup in June 1996.
"Bahraini authorities thwarted the plot only by pre-emptively arresting dozens of suspects and the kingdom continued to operate under de-facto martial law that didn't end until 1999."
Mr Belfer went on to claim that the build-up to this year's unrest dated as far back as 2008, when senior Shi'ite clerics were arrested for conspiring against the government.
"The sporadic violence that ensued culminated in still another attempted coup," he wrote.
"Then in December 2008, 14 people were arrested on suspicion of planning a series of terror attacks against commercial centres, diplomatic missions and nightclubs in Bahrain.
"The arrests unleashed still more violence.
"It was against this backdrop that Iran's Mr Nuri (adviser to Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Nateq Nuri), called Bahrain Iran's '14th province,' a statement greeted by joyous chants of agreement from Bahrain's Shi'ites."
Mr Belfer concluded the article by saying that this year's events should have had the international community rushing to support Bahrain, not ostracise it.
"Instead, too many decision-makers were still lost in the rhetoric of the wider Arab Spring," he said.
"The specifics of each country are whitewashed in favour of one simplistic mantra: that the Arab people have been oppressed by their leaders and want democratic reform.
"This is only partially correct in some cases and fundamentally erroneous in Bahrain.
"Instead of simply reading demonstrator's placards, leaders need to understand the country's history.
"Bahrain is in the midst of an existential struggle against a vastly superior foe.
"Meanwhile, in Iran, the international community is content to listen to calls for moderate reforms coming from immoderate ayatollahs."