On Saturday, May 20, Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry announced that it would resume full diplomatic relations with Lebanon amid an effort to “strengthen the fraternal relations between the two countries.” Bahrain and other Gulf countries severed relations with Lebanon in 2021 in response to then-Lebanese Information Minister George Kordahi’s statements criticizing the Saudi-led coalition's involvement in Yemen’s civil war.
Many attribute this reconciliation to a regional trend of re-engagement: Iran and Saudi Arabia, historic rivals, normalized relations this March; Syria has re-entered the diplomatic landscape and the Arab League; and now, after a year and a half, Lebanese-Gulf relations are actively improving.
After Saudi Arabia expelled their diplomats from Lebanon in October 2021, Bahrain, Kuwait, and UAE followed suit. The Iran Press noted George Kordahi's controversial statement that invoked the initial fallout: “The Iran-aligned Houthis were ‘defending themselves … against an external aggression’ in Yemen. He also said the long-running conflict was ‘futile’ and called for it to end.’”
Bahrain’s discontent with Lebanon deepened in December 2021 when Lebanon authorized a press conference to be hosted by alleged terrorists. In response, the Bahrain National News broadcast the following statement: “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has expressed its deep regret over and denunciation of the Lebanese capital Beirut’s hosting of a press conference for hostile persons designated as supporters and sponsors of terrorism, with the purpose of disseminating and promoting abusive and malicious allegations against the Kingdom of Bahrain.”
Lebanese politicians have received Bahrain’s restorative decision with open arms. Highlighted in The Jerusalem Post, Lebanon's Prime Minister Najib Mikati stated: "We appreciate this decision and welcome it in the context of the brotherly relations between the two countries."
Bahrain’s decision to restore ties coincides with a regional trend of diplomatic progression, which has eased tensions among regional powers Saudi Arabia and Iran. Explained in Zawya, “The Bahraini decision comes the day after the Arab League summit in Saudi Arabia against a backdrop of unexpected rapprochement between Riyadh and Tehran, brokered by Beijing. The warming of relations between the region's two great rivals has paved the way for a major diplomatic reshuffle in the Arab world.”
This pattern is further demonstrated by Syrian’s reintegration into the Arab League, another potential motivator for Bahrain’s policy change towards Lebanon. Notably, both Bahrain and Lebanon participated in Arab League talks regarding rapprochement with Syria. Written in Al Jazeera, “The restoration of ties comes amid a number of other efforts to resolve regional disputes, including bringing Syria back into the Arab League. After more than a decade of isolation, Bashar al-Assad, the president of war-torn Syria, attended the regional bloc’s 32nd summit in Saudi Arabia’s port city of Jeddah on Friday.”
Many countries, including the United States, have expressed support towards Bahraini-Lebanese reconciliation. Written in Al Arabiya: “‘The United States welcomes the restoration of diplomatic ties between Bahrain and Lebanon—an important step forward to advance our shared vision of a more integrated, stable, and prosperous Middle East,’ Acting White House National Security Council Spokesman Adam Hodge said.”