Foreign policy and defense
Bahrain has been Western friendly ever since
independence in 1971. That year a friendship treaty was
signed with the UK. Nowadays, however, relations with
neighboring Saudi Arabia are the most important. The
Saudis, like Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates,
provide financial support to Bahrain. Iran has often
been seen as a threat.
The war that broke out between Iran and Iraq in 1980,
and a coup attempt in the country, contributed to
Bahrain's founding in 1981 to establish a cooperation
council for the states around the Persian Gulf (Gulf
Cooperation Council, GCC, where also the United Arab
Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia
included). Several of the GCC countries agreed in 2009
to create a single currency union, but plans have since
been postponed for the future. In connection with the
street protests against the government in Bahrain in
February 2011, military GCC forces, under Saudi
leadership, came to assist Bahrain security forces (see
Modern History). It was the first time GCCthe Peninsula
Shield Force was deployed in one of the member states.
It was also considered to strengthen Saudi Arabia's
influence in the region as well as in Bahrain.
Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Bahrain for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.
During the 1980s, Bahrain strengthened its defense
with foreign aid. Iran, which has long claimed Bahrain,
was seen as a threat. In the 1990s, diplomatic relations
with Iran were restored. When Conservative Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad became President of Iran in 2005, relations
deteriorated and they have remained frosty because of
Bahrain's allegations that Iran supports insurgents in
the country (see Modern History and Current Politics).
During Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990, Bahrain,
like other GCC states, stood on the side of the
Westerners. After the war, the United States and Bahrain
signed an agreement on defense cooperation; The United
States' fifth fleet now has its base in Bahrain. The
United States sees the country as one of its closest
allies outside NATO cooperation. However, the United
States, like several Western countries, has expressed
concern for a lack of respect for human rights in
Bahrain, including through oppression of oppositionists.
There is also a defense cooperation with the UK. The
British opened a new naval base in the country in 2018
and had previously warships stationed there.
Following the terrorist attacks in the United States
on September 11, 2001, Bahrain joined the US-led war on
terrorism as well as the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
By contrast, Bahrain did not support the invasion of
Iraq in 2003. Bahrain did, however, establish diplomatic
relations with the Iraqi regime that continued after
Saddam Hussein's overthrow. The country also joined
forces behind the United States to fight the Islamic
State (IS) jihadist movement and participated in air
strikes against targets in Syria from autumn 2014.
Dispute within GCC
With neighboring Qatar, Bahrain has had several
border disputes, but conditions have improved since they
both accepted a ruling in the International Court of
Justice in The Hague in 2001. Ferry traffic has been
established and plans are underway to build a road and
rail link between the countries. In 2014, the
relationship was re-strained, as Bahrain, like Saudi
Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, took home its Doha
ambassador following allegations that Qatar had become
involved in other countries' domestic policies. The
criticism was about Qatar's connection with the Muslim
Brotherhood. The ambassadors were sent back after six
months after the conflict was annexed at a meeting in
Saudi Arabia, but the conflict was seen as the most
serious so far within the GCC.
Bahrain has strengthened its cooperation with Russia.
In 2014, the countries signed several agreements to
expand trade and initiate military cooperation,
including through Russian arms exports to Bahrain. The
agreements received criticism from the United States and
several human rights organizations that expressed
concern that it could contribute negatively to Bahrain's
internal political contradictions.
FACTS - DEFENSE
6,000 men (2017)
The air Force
1,500 men (2017)
700 men (2017)
Military expenditure's share of GDP
4.1 percent (2017)
Military spending's share of the state budget
11.8 percent (2017)