Saudi Soldier, Bahrain Protesters Killed; Iran Blames US
In Bahrain, where Saudi soldiers have been deployed, police have killed several protesters. Iran blames the United States for the Saudi invasion and accused Saudi Arabian troops of killing Bahraini protesters Wednesday morning. However, foreign media in Bahrain have reported no signs confirming the charge.
The Saudi intervention challenged its close ties with the United States, and the presence of Saudi troops in Bahrain has also escalated a dramatic Iranian-Saudi diplomatic clash as the Muslim revolutionary movement threatens to boil over into a regional religious war.
It has not been confirmed that Saudi soldiers shot at the protesters, but Bahrain's state-run television reported that a Saudi soldier and two Bahraini policemen were killed in Wednesday’s violence.
Iran accused Saudi Arabia of “occupying” the oil kingdom of Bahrain and blamed the United States for encouraging King Abdullah to send his troops to quell the rebellion by Bahrain’s majority of Shi’ite Muslims.
Senior Bahraini Shi’ite Muslim clerics warned that the government troops might “massacre” protesters.
Iran’s PRESS TV reported that Iranian Speaker of the Parliament Ali Larijani accused the United States of “traceable involvement” in the violence against protesters. Referring to the recent visit to Bahrain by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Larijani added, "It is very clear that such an aggressive move has been carried out in support of the United States during the Defense Secretary's trip. Regional nations have the right to declare that Washington is responsible for any violence and killing," he added.
Soldiers and police Wednesday morning used tear gas and armored vehicles to overpower protesters at the focal point of demonstrations at Pearl Square in Manama, the capital of Bahrain.
The kingdom has declared a three-month period of martial law in order to try to retain control, banning “rallies and disrupting the public order” and imposing “movement restrictions” and possible curfews.
However, clashes have spread throughout Shi’ite villages in the oil-rich island country, and they represent a proxy war between Iran’s fundamentalist Shi’ite Muslim regime and Gulf Arab leaders.
The United States is caught in the clash to the extent that Bahrain hosts its Fifth Fleet of Navy warships that stand by as a challenge to any Iranian moves to block the Persian Gulf, the key waterway for approximately half of the world’s gas and oil tankers.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday called “for calm and restraint on all sides in Bahrain,” closely watched by Washington. If the monarchy in Manama falls, it could boil over into protests in the oil kingdom of Saudi Arabia, sparking a world-wide economic crisis if the price of oil skyrockets and if the Middle East becomes embroiled in a regional religious war.
However, the presence of Saudi troops in Bahrain is problematic for the Obama administration, which has been trying to encourage political reforms in Bahrain and other Arab nations in the Middle East.
The injection of Sunni Muslim-based Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council Peninsula Shield Forces of 1,000 soldiers in Bahrain is an unprecedented action designed to keep the Arab revolts from spreading.
"I think our relationship with Saudi Arabia is going to remain very tense for the next few months and maybe longer," David Ottaway, of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, told the French-based news agency AFP.