GCC Blasts Iran for Sowing Instability After Saudi Riots
The six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) on Thursday blasted Tehran for sowing instability by inciting Shiite minorities in predominantly Sunni countries, Gulf News reports.
The statement is primarily seen as a reaction to to Monday night's riots in Saudi Arabia's Shiite-dominated eastern province of Qatif, where riots erupted in Awamiya city.
During the riots 14 people, including 11 security personnel and three civilians, were injured.
According to statements by human rights groups quoted in western sources, the violence erupted when police opened fire in the air to disperse protesters who had surrounded a local police station demanding the release of two men arrested earlier.
Rioting followed with assailants, some on motorcycles, firing from machine guns and hurling Molotov cocktails at the police.
At a mosque in the village late on Tuesday, senior cleric Sheikh Nimr Nimr, said Saudi "authorities depend on bullets ... and killing and imprisonment. We must depend on the roar of the word, on the words of justice," according to Iran's semi-official Fars news service.
A video posted on YouTube showed demonstrators chanting "Down with Mohammed bin Fahd," the governor of the Eastern Province and son of Saudi Arabia's former ruler, the late King Fahd.
Saudi authorities, however, blamed the riots on "foreign forces" -- Riyadh’s political code for Tehran -- and vowed to use "an iron fist" after rioters attacked the police with Molotov cocktails and machine gun fire.
GCC states -- Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, and UAE -- have repeatedly accused Iran of interfering in their internal affairs and instigating violence and unrest, especially in Bahrain.
"There is group receiving clear instructions from abroad," a Saudi security official who spoke with Reuters on condition of anonymity said.
Iran, which has had two spy rings with links to local provocateurs broken up in Gulf Arab states in recent months, denies the charges. Instead, Tehran accuses Gulf Arab monarchies of discrimination against their Shiite citizens — an accusation rejected by both Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.
In 2009, the US State Department published a human-rights report on Saudi Arabia noting that Shiite Muslims in the Kingdom face "significant political, economic, legal, social and religious discrimination condoned by the government."
Since the 'Arab Spring' erupted earlier this year the rivalry for hegemony over the Persian Gulf between Shiite Iran and the Sunni Gulf monarchies has grown particuliarly intense - with GCC states contemplating a transformation of their trade bloc into a unified diplomatic and military confederation.
GCC states have also begun looking to expand their membership with the Hashemite kingdom of Jordan currently negotiating its admission as the council's seventh member.