On June 21, 2016, the Bahraini government stripped Ayatollah Isa Qassem of Bahraini citizenship, further aggravating the situation with Shi’ite majority in Bahrain and triggering threats and warnings from Iranian officials. According to press reports, a crowd of 4,000 supporters of the ayatollah, gathered outside his home, some of them wearing white shrouds, a signal of their readiness to die.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards issued a statement saying, “There is no doubt that the unwise decision of the al-Khalifa against Ayatollah Isa Qassem would add to the flame of an Islamic revolution movement in Bahrain and will form a devastating rebellion against the dependent rulers of this country.”
The United States, whose Fifth Fleet is docked in Bahrain, is well aware that the fall of an ally could be replaced by Iranian manipulated political forces. This is the main reason for the relative silence of the U.S. administration towards the punitive decisions made by the Bahrain government, the lack of its democracy, and its disproportionate retaliatory measures against the Shi’ite population.
However, on the other hand, the Obama Administration was interested in a rapprochement with Iran and could have easily “sacrificed” the al-Khalifa family (like it did with President Mubarak of Egypt) if it was replaced by a local political faction favorable to the continuation of the American presence in the Gulf.