The recent designation of exiled Bahrani cleric and al-Wafa movement leader Murtada al-Sanadi as a "specially designated global terrorist" has met with approval from political and human rights figures in the kingdom.
The US State Department announced the designation on March 17th.
"Today’s actions follow a recent increase in militant attacks in Bahrain, where Iran has provided weapons, funding and training to militants," the State Department said in its announcement.
"This marks yet another step in our continued effort to aggressively target Iran’s destabilising and terrorism-related activities in the region," it added. "We will continue to stand with Bahrain in addressing these threats, even as we encourage the government to clearly differentiate its response to violent militia groups from its engagement with peaceful political opposition."
Bahraini cleric Sheikh Abdullah al-Maqabi told Al-Mashareq that al-Sanadi chose violence as a course of action for al-Wafa at its inception.
"After the events of 2011, al-Sanadi publicly proclaimed from his permanent headquarters in the Iranian city of Qom that he would lead the movement on a course that, in his words, aims to 'overthrow the regime' and 'convert the country into a republic'", he said.
Direct Iranian backing
Al-Wafa is directly supported by Iran, financially and logistically, and has chosen the holy city of Qom as its headquarters, al-Maqabi said, which explains its strong rejection of dialogue with the Bahraini regime.
Al-Sanadi provides financial support to his followers in Bahrain via remittances made through individuals based in Gulf countries, he said.
"The movement’s representatives would travel from Bahrain to meet those individuals and receive the funds from them, then return to finance and carry out subversive terrorist attacks in the kingdom," he said.
Al-Wafa's activities include logistical support of elements inside Bahrain and secret training which is conducted at a field camp in Iraq, he added.
Al-Sanadi's designation as a "specially designated global terrorist" indicates there is accurate and confirmed intelligence about his involvement in acts of terrorism against the kingdom under Iranian sponsorship, al-Maqabi said.
"Iranian leaders have always openly stated that they support all the activities of 'revolutionaries' in Bahrain," he added.
Political expert Yousef al-Mishaal told Al-Mashareq that al-Sanadi's terror designation lets the world know of his malicious intentions against Bahrain.
"Al-Sanadi has established a base in Iran to spew his venom against the kingdom, underscoring in the process Iran’s continued heinous interference in Bahrain’s affairs," he said.
"Al-Sanadi is a living example of a cleric who uses religion to achieve political objectives of a terrorist nature and goes to Iran to turn his terrorist ambitions into tangible reality on the kingdom’s territory," al-Mishaal said.
Al-Sanadi’s activities necessitate that the state monitor religious activists and mosque preachers associated with political movements or groups, he added.
Iran's expansionist ambitions
Iran's continued support of al-Wafa and al-Sanadi are closely tied to its expansionist ambitions in the region, al-Mishaal said.
Al-Wafa is driven by Tehran's agenda because it is sponsored and supported by Iran, said Salman Nasser, head of the Human Rights Activists Group in Bahrain.
The new designation shows al-Sanadi continues to sponsor terrorist acts against Bahraini security personnel, disrupt state interests and lure youth into joining the movement under the pretext of "resistance" or "armed struggle", he said.
"The extent of the extremism with which al-Wafa movement seeks to target Bahrain is vast and limitless," he said, underscoring "the continued support it receives from Iran".
Nasser said that since al-Sanadi escaped to Qom, he has formed a terror cell in Bahrain and has admitted on more than one occasion that he has directed, financed and organised attacks.
Al-Sanadi’s decision to establish permanent residence in Qom shows that Iran is a safe haven and host country for those who seek to undermine Bahrain’s security and that of the Gulf states, he added.
The Iranian regime takes in any fugitive from Bahraini justice and accords him privileges such as a nationality and a passport, Nasser said.
Al-Wafa has been spreading destruction, the seeds of which were planted by Iran, in order to carry out countless acts of terrorism against Bahrain, he said.
This necessitates exposing the group's schemes and curtailing the liberties of the perpetrators until they are arrested and brought to justice, he added.