CONTENT PREVIEW
Terrorism & Insurgency

Bahrain pipeline IED attack likely to provide pretext for escalating Saudi-led regional confrontation with Iran

13 November 2017

Key Points

  • The Bahraini government accused Iran of having ordered the attack. Although IHS Markit was unable to independently verify the claim, it is more likely than not that Iran chose this as a plausibly deniable response to Saudi Arabia’s perceived recent escalation against Iranian influence in Lebanon.
  • IHS Markit currently assesses the risk of unsophisticated terrorist attacks on commercial assets in Bahrain as high. The attacks are most likely to remain limited to involve Molotov cocktails, small-arms, and small improvised explosive devices.
  • An intensification of state repression directed at Bahraini Shia dissidents would increase the likelihood of greater external support being provided by Iran, resulting in an increase in the sophistication IED attacks, targeting state security forces deployed around Shia villages, hydrocarbon assets, state-owned commercial buildings, or assets connected with Bahrain’s Gulf allies, particularly Saudi Arabia.

Event

On 10 November, there was an explosion on an oil pipeline in Bahrain, near the village of Buri, approximately 15 km southwest of the capital, Manama.A Bahraini Shia protester gives the sign of victory during clashes with riot police on 23 May 2015 in the village of Jidhafs, west of Manama. (Mohammed Al-Shaikh/AFP/Getty Images)A Bahraini Shia protester gives the sign of victory during clashes with riot police on 23 May 2015 in the village of Jidhafs, west of Manama. (Mohammed Al-Shaikh/AFP/Getty Images)

The explosion damaged nearby buildings and the Wali Al Ahad Highway towards Hamad town was subsequently closed. The pipeline connects oil exports between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia; oil flow was halted for several hours in both directions before being restarted.

On 11 November, the Bahraini Ministry of Interior released a statement claiming that the explosion had been an “intentional act of sabotage” and blamed the attack on terrorists who were in “direct contact and under instruction” from the Iranian government. Bahrain’s ruling Al Khalifa family have close ties to Saudi Arabia. The Iranian Foreign Ministry rejected the allegation.

The Bahraini government has been fighting since 2011 against protests and low-level violence from the kingdom’s Shia community, who account for approximately 75% of its population. It is likely that the pipeline attack was conducted by domestic Shia dissidents.

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