US sources dismissive of Bahraini allegation, and as early as 2008 noted tensions between its Shia majority and Sunni rulers
The United States has repeatedly dismissed claims by the Bahraini government that Shia Muslim unrest in the Gulf island state is backed by Iran.
US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks show that the accusation made by the Manama government – which is facing street protests demanding political reforms from an opposition inspired by the Egyptian and Tunisian uprisings – is not backed by hard evidence.
“Each time this claim is raised, we ask the GOB (government of Bahrain) to share its evidence,” the US embassy reported in a secret dispatch in August 2008. “To date, we have seen no convincing evidence of Iranian weapons or government money here since at least the mid-1990s … If the GOB had convincing evidence of more recent Iranian subversion, it would quickly share it with us.”
Bahrain, home to the US fifth fleet, is unique in the Gulf in having a Shia majority – 60-70% of the 500,000 strong population – ruled by the Sunni Al-Khalifa dynasty. The government has been concerned in recent years that any conflict with Iran would generate sympathy from the Shia population, the cables show.