The holy month of Ramadan could never be described as a time of feverish activity in the Gulf states that sit between Shia Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia.
It is brutally hot even after the fasting daylight hours give way to the feasting hours of the humid evening.
The sound of Koran readings in the ancient mosques drifts across the modern skyline – a reminder of the energies devoted to prayerful contemplation.
But this year the atmosphere feels a little different.
In the Gulf there is a keen awareness that the deadline is approaching in the talks between the US-led world powers and the government of Iran over that country’s nuclear ambitions.
The Sunni monarchies of the region follow the issue as closely as it is followed in Israel – which of course considers itself the likeliest target for any future Iranian nuclear bomb.
The fears in the Gulf are slightly more complex.
Many of the conflicts raging in the Middle East, from Yemen to Iraq to Syria, are defined to some extent by the ancient division between the two main traditions of Islam – Shia and Sunni.
Iran sees itself as a protector of the Shia wherever they may be found and also believes in the right to export its brand of revolution.
Its regional rivals led by Saudi Arabia therefore regard it as a dangerous and destabilising power – ever ready to blow on the flames of political dissent through its proxy armies like Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Most of the Gulf states are Sunni with Shia minorities but Bahrain has a Shia majority ruled by a Sunni monarchy.
It is no stranger to political unrest and reports that members of that Shia majority are abused, even tortured, in prison – something the authorities deny.
Add to that the uncomfortable fact that historically Iran once regarded Bahrain as its own territory and that some at least of the Kingdom’s Shia population have their roots in Persia and you can see why Bahrain views Iran with particular anxiety.
The Chief of Police in Bahrain, Major-General Tariq al-Hassan, showed me an impressive collection of guns, ammunition and explosives recovered on anti-terrorist operations in recent years.
He says it is clear that Iran is inspiring, inciting and attempting to arm extremist groups in the Kingdom.
“There’s no doubt there’s overwhelming evidence of Iranian interference, direct and indirect,” he told me. “We have evidence the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps or elements within it have been involved in training, funding and recruiting terrorists in Bahrain.”
in a word..yes..
will they be subjected to the same scrutiny as iran?..in a word..no..