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Photo: Mazen Mahdi AFP via Getty

MANAMA, Bahrain — The diplomat who transitioned Israel's secret relationship with Bahrain into a public one tells Axios that Israel's burgeoning partnerships in the region "keep the Iranians up at night."

What he's saying: "The Iranians opened a front against us in Syria and Lebanon, but now when they look across the Gulf, they see us there with our allies very close to them," says Itay Tagner, the outgoing head of mission at the new Israeli Embassy in Bahrain, who previously led the secret Israeli diplomatic mission in Manama.

  • Since the Abraham Accords, the countries have focused primarily on economic cooperation, but the Bahrainis have made clear they “will not shy away” from coordinating on Iran, Tagner told me when we met on Friday on the sidelines of the Manama Dialogue, a security forum focused largely on Iran.
  • Relations with Israel are part of Bahrain's security strategy due to the threat from Tehran, Tagner says.
  • “When we speak about Iran, the Bahrainis know what we are talking about. Iran is 90 miles away,“ he said, noting that Iranian drones fly above the country on the way to attack Saudi Arabia.

One clear signal came in August when the undersecretary of the Bahraini Foreign Ministry, Abdullah bin Ahmad Al Khalifa, visited Israel and released a photo from a meeting with the Israeli general in charge of operations against Iran.

  • “A picture is worth a thousand words, but Sheikh Abdulla personally approved the press release that accompanied the photo and stressed that both countries agreed to enhance security cooperation," Tagner tells me.
  • When I met Sheikh Abdullah on Friday, he told me Bahrain had put forward a comprehensive strategy for “warm peace” with Israel in all dimensions of the relationship.

Flashback: Tagner recalled watching the signing ceremony of the Abraham Accords alongside a Bahraini friend who had just paid $250,000 to book a seat on a flight to space in 2024.

  • “He told me that until a few weeks before, he was sure he would be able to travel to space before he ever traveled to Israel. This tells you all you need to know about what happened here in the last year," Tagner said.

What's next: Tagner leaves Bahrain this week after 15 months and will be replaced by Ambassador Eitan Na'eh at the embassy that was inaugurated in September on the 29th floor of the Manama World Trade Center.

Go deeper

Federal court blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for health workers in 10 states

President Biden delivers remarks on the Omicron COVID-19 variant following a meeting with his COVID-19 response team. Photo: Anna Moneymaker via Getty Images

A federal court in Missouri has blocked the Biden administration from enforcing a coronavirus vaccine mandate for health care workers at federally-funded facilities in 10 states.

Why it matters: Monday's decision is the first victory for opponents of the rule, which requires health care workers to get vaccinated by Jan. 4, 2022. The case is one of four lawsuits challenging the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' (CMS) rule and argues that the mandate will exacerbate staffing shortages.

Twitter's next act

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey is exiting the company he helped build at a time when its future has never been so uncertain.

Why it matters: The person who controls Twitter controls the de facto public square — with implications for politics, media and free speech.

1 hour ago - Health

CDC strengthens COVID booster recommendation

Rochelle Walensky. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Monday strengthened its previous recommendation for booster shots, saying that everyone 18 and older "should" receive a booster dose.

Why it matters: Last month, CDC director Rochelle Walensky accepted a key advisory committee's recommendation that adults "may" get the shot. The slight, but strengthened, change in wording comes amid the emergence of the Omicron coronavirus variant.