Authorities in Bahrain claim they have dismantled a number of “terror cells” and arrested 20 individuals who reportedly received military training in Iran and Iraq, the Bahraini state-run media reports. “As part of the search and investigation that led to the foiling of the fleeing fugitives via the sea to Iran on February 9, a number of terror cells that were about to carry out terrorist plots have been dismantled through a comprehensive security plan,” ) reported today. “One of the arrestees admitted to killing First-Lt Hisham Al Hamadi who was shot dead in Bilad Al Qadeem on January 29. Two of the arrestees were involved in setting up secret bomb-making warehouses. An investigation revealed that eight of the arrestees had received military training on arms and the use of explosives in Iran and Iraq,” the outlet added.

Comment: On February 9, Bahrain that they had foiled an attempt by “terrorist fugitives” who, according to the country’s Ministry of Interior, had escaped from prison on January 1 and were heading to Iran by sea. At least one policeman was killed during the jailbreak. But the new allegations about Iran-backed “terrorist cells” and the arrest of Bahraini individuals who have received training in Iran and Iraq are likely to further escalate tension between Tehran and Manama. Bahraini leaders often accuses the Iranian government of inciting Bahraini Shiites to topple the government. Indeed, Iranian leaders and state-run media, particularly outlets affiliated with the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.), have recently intensified propaganda and incitement against the Bahraini government. I.R.G.C.-affiliated Tasnim News Agency, for example, wrote earlier this month that the toppling of the Bahraini government was a “public call.”

Any Iranian connection with terrorist plots in Bahrain will also be closely watched by the U.S. military. The United States Navy has had a presence in Bahrain since the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt, and its Fifth Fleet is headquartered in Bahrain – a strategic location that helps the U.S. Navy to ensure the security of maritime activity in the region, support the fight on terrorism, and monitor Iran’s subversive activities across the Middle East.

As tension between Tehran and Washington is escalating over the former’s missile activity and support for terrorism, Iranian officials have recently warned that the country’s military and its foreign proxies would target U.S. military bases in the Middle East if Iran’s security was threatened. “The Fifth Fleet of the U.S. military has occupied a part of Bahrain, and the farthest military base of the enemy is stationed in the Indian Ocean. But these locations are within the reach of Iranian missiles. If the enemy makes a mistake, they will be razed to the ground,” said Mojtaba Zonour, a senior Iranian lawmaker who has also served as an advisor to the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to the I.R.G.C. in the past.