Iran for first time warns Saudis not to crack down on Shi'ite population
Thursday, March 3, 2011 E-Mail this story Free Headline Alerts
NICOSIA — Iran, escalating its rhetoric against its Sunni neighbor, has warned Saudi Arabia of any crackdown on the kingdom's Shi'ite minority.
For the first time in years, the mullah regime in Teheran has begun issuing threats against the Saudi kingdom. Senior officials said Iran was warning Riyad against a crackdown on its large Shi'ite minority amid unprecedented Arab unrest.
"It [Saudi leadership] should know that the Saudi people have become vigilant and do not allow the rulers of the country to commit any possible crime against them," Iranian parliamentarian Mohammed Dehqan said.
On March 1, Saudi police arrested a prominent Shi'ite cleric in what was termed a measure to prevent unrest in the Eastern Province. News of the arrest sparked a plunge in the Saudi stock market to its lowest level since 2009.
Dehqan, regarded as a leading parliamentary ally of the regime of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said Saudi Arabia has been oppressing its people for years. The parliamentarian, a member of the presiding board, said Riyad would eventually be held accountable for abuses against Shi'ites and Sunni civilians.
"Saudi Arabia should account for the suppressions of the Shi'ite and Sunni people in the country for numerous years," Dehqan said.
In remarks reported by Iran's semi-official Fars News Agency, Dehqan suggested that Saudi Arabia, with a Shi'ite community of at least 10 percent of the kingdom, could be the next target of the Arab revolt. He said the Saudi kingdom has been alarmed over calls for regime change in both neighboring Bahrain and Yemen.
"Considering that the developments in Bahrain and Yemen affect the situation in Saudi Arabia, the country feels grave danger and interferes in the internal affairs of these states," Dehqan said.
Officials said Teheran has been dismayed by what was termed Saudi measures against Iranians. They said the kingdom has ignored Teheran's demands to stop fingerprinting Iranian visitors, including a soccer team that arrived in late February for the Asian Games.
"As regards the fingerprinting of [Iran's] Persepolis in the Jedda airport, we will retaliate and fingerprint Al Ittihad [soccer team] of Saudi Arabia," Hussein Naqavi, a member of parliament's Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, said.
The Saudi opposition has scheduled protests on March 11 and March 20. So far, 119 Saudi academics and activists have issued a call for the establishment of a constitutional monarchy.
Officials said Iran has determined that the Arab unrest would not affect the Teheran regime. They said many of the Arab countries would undergo regime change in what would ensure Iranian domination of the Middle East.
"Iran's pivotal role in the new Middle East is undeniable," Gen. Yadollah Janavi, political chief of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, told a conference on Feb. 28. "Today, developments in North Africa, Egypt, Tunisia and some other countries have a special meaning for the Iranian nation."