The Middle East uprisings are turning Muslim Shi’ites and the Sunni elite against each other. The Bahrain Chamber of Commerce has called for a boycott of Iran, and the kingdom orderd a senior Iranian diplomat to leave the country. Iran threatened retaliatory diplomatic action.
Iran’s Shi’ite leaders have condemned the Sunni rulers in Bahrain for violently suppressing protests, and Bahrain responded with accusations that the Islamic Republic is trying to use the unrest to further its dream of dominating the Muslim Middle East.
More than two-thirds of Bahrain’s residents are Shi’ite Muslims and are excluded from security posts in the country. Bahrain last week sentenced four of its Shi’ite nationals to death for shooting at police officers during demonstrations.
The Chamber of Commerce in Iran said it wants a boycott of Iran because of what it called the Islamic Republic’s “blatant interference in Bahrain's domestic affairs and threats to the kingdom's national security.”
The group of business leaders said a boycott would help the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) as it deals with the “relentless onslaught from Iran to divide their societies and spread sedition, discord and divisions." The GCC consists of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.
The unrest in Bahrain is costing the kingdom a sharp drop in tourism, particularly last month's cancellation of Formula One's season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.
U.S. President Barack Obama spoke with Bahrain’s King Hamad on Saturday to discuss the continuing unrest, and a White House statement said that Bahrain must show "respect for the universal rights" of its people” and introduce "meaningful reform" measures.