Iran condemns Gulf states' crackdown in Bahrain as 'unjustifiable and irreparable'

Thursday, March 17, 2011   E-Mail this story   Free Headline Alerts

ABU DHABI Bahrain, bolstered by Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf states, has launched a crackdown on the Shi'ite opposition.

The Bahraini Interior Ministry ordered armored combat vehicles and helicopters to assault an opposition camp in Manama. At least six people were killed as the camp was dismantled by security forces through the use of live fire on March 16. Hours later, authorities arrested six opposition leaders.

"I saw them fire live rounds in front of my own eyes," Shi'ite opposition leader Abdul Jalil Khalil said.

Iran, which recalled its ambassador, condemned the crackdown in Bahrain and warned of a backlash. Bahrain has accused Iran of supporting the Shi'ite opposition with both money, equipment and political support.

"What has happened is bad, unjustifiable and irreparable," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said.

The crackdown, which sparked protests in Iran, Iraq and Lebanon, came in wake of the declaration of a state of emergency in Bahrain. The state of emergency included restrictions on gatherings as well as a curfew from 4 p.m. to 4 a.m. throughout much of Manama.

Western diplomats said Iran, which on March 17 reported a space launch, could directly intervene in Bahrain should the Shi'ites face continued bloodshed. They said Western embassies were urging their nationals to leave Bahrain immediately.

"When the Gulf states now send military units to the small and prosperous island state, there is a very critical risk that the situation will instead be seen as part of a broader confrontation," Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said. "While there was most likely initially no Iranian interference, the opportunities for Iran to take advantage of the situation now undeniably grow."

Shi'ite opposition sources said the Bahraini crackdown was enabled by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council forces. They said at least 5,000 troops from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were operating in Bahrain.

"This was a major and a dangerous decision because this issue has been internationalized now," Jassim Hussein, a member of the opposition Shi'ite bloc in parliament, said. "It has been internationalized and there was no reason when our demands were local demands and nothing to do with Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates."

The Bahrain Army has been deploying U.S.-origin armored personnel carriers and main battle tanks in the offensive against the opposition. The army contains M-60A3 MBTs as well as M-113 APCs.

"We saw the tanks [M-60s] run over demonstrators," an opposition source said.

U.S.-origin Bell 212 helicopters provided reconnaissance of the Shi'ite camp while anti-riot police, some of them who wore masks, fired tear gas toward Pearl Square. Shi'ite protesters hurled firebombs toward the security forces in a two-hour battle.

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