King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa warned senior US military figures that opposition groups in Bahrain were receiving training from Hizbollah in Lebanon.
He also told senior American military figures that Syria was “complicit” in the training by providing the Bahrainis with false passports.
The claims were reported in a leaked embassy cable sent by US diplomats in Bahrain to Washington.
The communiqué was leaked to the WikiLeaks website and handed to The Daily Telegraph.
King Hamad made the claim in a 90 minute meeting on 30 July 2008 with General David Petraeus who at the time was commander of the allied forces in Iraq.
A US cable sent on 13 August 2008 said: “King Hamad related the report that Bahrainis were receiving training from Hizbollah in Lebanon, but admitted he had no definitive proof.
“He also speculated that the Syrian government was complicit, and ‘must be’ helping these Bahrainis travel without passport verification as tourists.” The cable added: “Post has heard versions of this theory from Bahraini officials in the past, but despite our requests the GOB [Government of Bahrain] has been unable to provide convincing evidence.”
Hizbollah, which is considered a terrorist organisation by Washington, is a Shia Muslim militant group and political party based in Lebanon, although it is financially backed by Iran and Syria.
Later in the meeting, King Hamad told Gen Petraeus that Bahrain, a key US ally, had been urged by Iran to support its efforts, and those of “Iraqi insurgents, Hamas, Hizballah, Taliban and Syria to drive American forces from the Gulf”.
King Hamad asked Gen Petraeus: “With friends like these, who needs enemies?”
In another communiqué, Iran was blamed by the minority ruling Sunnis for encouraging discontent among the majority Shia population.
The cable sent in February 2008 from the US embassy in Manama said: “Some Bahraini Sunnis, in and out of Government, suggest to foreigners (and may even believe themselves) that Iran is behind Shia discontent here.” However, the US officials played down this view: “In [diplomatic] post’s view, there is not convincing evidence of Iranian involvement here since at least the mid-1990s.
“Shia discontent stems chiefly from their lower standard of living, unofficial exclusion from sensitive government positions, and Sunni domination of parliament.” The cables also disclose Bahraini unease when an Iranian official spoke publicly of the country as “Iran’s fourteenth province” in February 2009.
A cable, sent on 17 February 2009, said Bahrain was “using this episode to amplify its ongoing campaign (reftel) against allegedly disloyal radicals among Bahrain’s Shia”.
However the cable added: “In private, Bahrain’s leaders do not seem very concerned about the prospect of annexation to Iran.”
The Daily Telegraph