Bahrain’s Monarchy Determined to Prevent Egyptian-Style Revolt in Mid-August

Andrew McGregor

August 9, 2013

Bahrain’s Interior Ministry has warned the nation’s largely Shiite political opposition against following through with plans for massive Egyptian-style pro-democracy street demonstrations planned for August 14. The opposition is calling for free elections in the Sunni-dominated monarchy and an end to the authoritative rule of Bahrain’s al-Khalifah royal family.

Bahrain MapWith the Shi’a representing approximately 70 percent of Bahrain’s population, all calls for democracy in Bahrain are interpreted as a revolutionary rejection of the existing order, which has proven extremely lucrative for Bahrain’s Sunni rulers. Although Bahrain was an historic center for Shi’a commerce and education, its conquest by the Sunni al-Khalifah tribe in 1782 brought permanent changes to the political landscape, especially after Bahrain’s new rulers began to offer incentives to other Sunni tribes to resettle there. The once-dominant indigenous Shi’a soon found themselves on the lowest rung of Bahrain’s new social order. [1]

The current regime has the support of Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood, both of whom are wary of an alleged “U.S.-Iranian plot” against Bahrain. Though the alliance sounds improbable, allegations of this sort help keep the United States on the margins of the political struggle for Bahrain, which plays host to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet.

Most of Bahrain’s press is strongly conservative, Sunni-dominated and pro-regime, with frequent commentaries decrying the “naïve Western media’s” inability to distinguish “organized terrorism” from “peaceful unrest calling for democracy,” as well as descriptions of the Arab Spring as a “false wave of change bringing only “destruction, havoc and destabilization” (Akhbar al-Khalij [Manama], July 30; al-Ayyam [Manama], July 30). Other accounts from the pro-regime media condemn the opposition’s use of “terrorist tactics” and “sectarian incitement,” as well as the “abuse of social media” to organize opposition protests and incite violence against security personnel (al-Watan [Manama], July 31; al-Ayyam [Manama], July 31; Akhbar al-Khalij [Manama], July 31).

In his Friday sermon of August 2, Manama’s Shaykh Salah al-Juwdar warned that Bahrain was facing a “relentless war” against terrorism and extremism “supported by Iran, the Shiite Da’wah Party of Iraq and Lebanon’s Hezbollah” (Akhbar al-Khalij [Manama], August 3). Other Sunni clerics have used their Friday sermons to warn against “tolerance and leniency to the forces of evil” and to call for full cooperation with the Emirate’s security forces (Akhbar al-Khalij [Manama], July 27).

The Political Opposition

Bahrain’s opposition consists in the main of five sometimes-feuding but generally cooperative and largely Shi’a organizations, including al-Wifaq (the National Islamic Society); Wa’d (the National Democratic Action Society); al-Ikha National Society, the National Democratic Assembly and the National Democratic Unity Gathering. To these may be added the leftist Progressive Democratic Tribune, constructed from the remains of the old Bahrain Communist Party (al-Wasat [Manama], July 25). Public protests and street demonstrations are often organized by the February 14 Youth Coalition, an opposition group that organizes through social networking sites.

The aims of the opposition were set forth in the October 2012 Manama Document, which compared the “non-democratic government” of Bahrain to the former regimes in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen. While noting that Bahrain is an oil-producing nation, the document says Bahrain still suffers “from an acute poor distribution of wealth and widespread poverty” that is exacerbated by the concentration of land, wealth and power in the hands of a small number of people. [2]

Bahrain Ali SalmanShaykh Ali Salman

Shiite opposition groups complain that their observance of Ramadan has been marred by continued raids on personal residences and subsequent arrests that have no “legal pretext or judicial order” (al-Wifaq [Manama], July 29). Al-Wifaq general-secretary Shaykh Ali Salman is reported to have received threats from “parties affiliated with the regime” and recently had his home in al-Bidal al-Qadim assaulted by “masked civilian militias” (al-Wifaq [Manama], July 31). Pro-regime media have issued frequent calls for the arrest and detention of Ali Salman, though the Wifaq leader accuses the regime of forcing the “popular movement” to take to the streets due to the former’s reluctance to engage in dialogue, defiantly remarking: “It is an honor to me to be arrested or martyred for the sake of the cause” (al-Wifaq [Manama], July 17; al-Watan [Manama], July 22).

The most important opposition cleric in Bahrain remains Ayatollah Shaykh Isa Ahmad Qassim, whose Friday sermons are often followed by public marches and demonstrations. Isa Qassim, who was accused of organizing an attempted coup in 1996, plays an important but unofficial role in the leadership of al-Wafiq, the most important opposition movement. The regime considers Shaykh Qassim to be an Iranian-backed radical; after Qassim met with a senior U.S. State Department official in May, three Sunni political groups issued a statement saying the meeting exposed the U.S. government’s “support for terrorism operations in Bahrain” (BBC, May 24, 2013). In a recent Friday sermon, al-Qassim said: “the belief that a solution could be struck with the regime is only a mirage… The regime is using its political promises to mask and camouflage its real intentions on the ground – an escalation of violence against its own citizens with utmost ferocity” (Ahlul Bayt News Agency, July 13).

Bahrain’s opposition is of the general belief that the regime has been given a green light by the United States and the Sunni-dominated monarchies of the Gulf to take whatever action is necessary to repress a Shiite-led pro-democracy movement (Fars News Agency [Tehran], July 28). The opposition alleges that their peaceful overtures have been met with repression, collective punishment, killings, torture, abductions, assaults on women and the destruction of Shiite mosques (al-Wasat [Manama], July 31). Much of the political violence takes place in Bahrain’s many Shiite villages, some of which have tried to fortify themselves against incursions by security forces. Such operations tend to finish in clashes with Shiite villagers often using homemade weapons against security personnel.

A Terrorist Threat in Bahrain?

Though charges of “terrorism” are routinely applied by the regime and its supporters to the Shi’a opposition, an actual terrorist campaign has been slow to evolve in Bahrain. An indicator that this might change came in the rather ineffective car-bombing of a mosque parking-lot in the al-Rifa’a suburb of Manama on July 17.

The car-bomb appeared to consist of a single gas cylinder and caused no injuries. One Bahraini daily pointed an improbable finger of responsibility at Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah, citing the group’s “specialization” in car-bombs (Akhbar al-Khalij [Manama], July 22). The blast came during evening tarawih prayers (extra night-time congregational prayers conducted during Ramadan) (Akhbar al-Khalij [Manama], July 20). Three suspects were reported to have been arrested on July 27, though neither their identities nor affiliations were given immediately (Ilaf, July 27).

The Rifa’a neighborhood is home to the palaces of the royal family and pro-regime media quickly interpreted the blast as an attempt to strike the royal family. The choice of target may have had some symbolic significance, as the mosque in question was named for Shaykh Isa bin Salman al-Khalifah, Bahrain’s former Amir and the father of the current king. A claim of responsibility was issued by the little-known al-Ashtar Brigade that appeared to support this interpretation: “Our men from al-Ashtar Brigade were able to infiltrate the regime’s headquarters and conduct a unique operation in Rifa’a… We assure that our target is not any place of worship, but it was a final warning to the regime that our men are capable of reaching anywhere and we demand immediate release of our sisters in prison” (Gulf Daily News [Manama], July 19). The reference to “our sisters in prison” appeared to be an attempt to implicate al-Wifaq, which has been campaigning for the release of female detainees. The five main opposition groups responded to al-Ashtar’s statement by issuing a “call for peacefulness and renunciation of violence” (al-Wifaq [Manama], July 26).

In response to the opposition’s rejection of violence, the Ashtar Brigade’s statement included a defense of their methods:

Legitimate resistance is not violence, and the brigade will not abandon resistance and will protect resistance with their blood until Bahrain is liberated from the filth of the al-Khalifah occupiers…With great regret, we have followed the statements of the political opposition societies condemning the legitimate resistance, calling it violence, at a time when the mercenaries of the enemy continue committing the ugliest crimes and violations against the sons of our people… We stress the right of everyone to act in accordance with his viewpoint and his mechanism, be it the approach of resistance or peacefulness (Bahrain Online, July 26).

Despite al-Wifaq’s strong condemnation of the attack and any other form of political violence, Bahrain’s pro-regime press still took the opportunity to speculate on al-Wifaq’s involvement, saying the group “always raises suspicions” or “blesses terrorism” (al-Wifaq [Manama], July 18; al-Watan [Manama], July 18; July 26).

In the days after the parking lot bombing, Bahrain’s pro-regime press carried dozens of formulaic condemnations of the attack from various Sunni Islamic organizations, most of which concluded with a rejection of sectarianism and demands for the immediate and firm application of anti-terrorism legislation. One such statement identified Shaykh Ali Salman and Shaykh Isa Ahmad Qassim as the agents behind the bombing, alleging they were backed by Iran and “Hezbollah terrorists” (Akhbar al-Khalij [Manama], July 20). Ali Salman condemned the bombing, but called for an investigation by a “neutral body,” saying he “does not have to believe the official story” (al-Wifaq [Manama], August 4). Some quarters of the opposition have described the blast as a “fabricated” attack designed to defame and delegitimize the political opposition just as new and repressive legislation is introduced prior to the mid-August protests (Bahrain Mirror, July 19). The bombing was immediately followed by the Interior Ministry’s prohibition of mass-protests scheduled for July 19, followed by a ban on an already rescheduled protest set for July 26 (al-Wasat [Manama], July 21).

Another car bomb exploded near a recreational area west of Manama on August 3, again without casualties. The method appeared similar to the al-Rifa’a bombing, with two gas cylinders used this time, though only one cylinder was successfully detonated.

The Pre-Protest Crackdown

King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa issued new decrees on August 1 giving authorities wide powers to revoke citizenship for participation in terrorism and to interrupt the funding of groups suspected of supporting terrorist acts (Bahrain News Agency, August 1). Also approved was a bill banning gatherings and rallies in Manama, the Bahraini capital. Friday protests have become common in Manama as opposition supporters call for the release of political prisoners. A number of Sunni MPs have called for Bahraini citizenship to be withdrawn from anyone who “incites terrorism via religious channels or social networking sites” (al-Watan [Manama], July 19). Moderates in the opposition complain they are being forced into the same camp as the more radical opposition due to the regime’s inflexibility.

Bahrain’s security services have repeatedly demanded that local health professionals refuse medical treatment to injured protesters or sought their cooperation in identifying such patients, arresting those doctors and nurses who have displayed reluctance in these efforts. Now, according to a Twitter report from a Manama doctors’ association, the emergency center of the Salmaniya Medical Complex has been put under the authority of the Ministry of the Interior two weeks before the expected protests, complete with security cameras to record those who might seek treatment for demonstration-related injuries (Bahrain Mirror, August 1).

In the crackdown that followed the February, 2011 protests, some 38 Shiite mosques and hussainiya-s (Shiite congregation halls) were destroyed. The government pledged to rebuild these structures, but so far only four mosques have been restored, while the government now looks to use the remaining land for other purposes (as-Safir [Beirut], July 23). Attacks on Shiite mosques have intensified lately both in the capital and in other urban centers, leading Shaykh Ali Salman to ask why officials have failed to address the trend: “Where are the directives to protect sacred places and take measures against perpetrators of such attacks?” (Bahrain Mirror, July 19; al-Alam [Tehran], July 25; as-Safir [Beirut], July 23).

The Role of Iran

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei sees the political turmoil in Bahrain as part of a larger plot pursued by “Western and Zionist spy agencies” to prevent Islamic unity by sparking dissension in the Muslim community. The Ayatollah has tried to defuse the sectarian aspect of the Bahraini protests, preferring to describe it publically as a natural and understandable preference for the equitable treatment of Bahrain’s majority population:  “In Bahrain, an oppressed majority, which has been deprived of the right of voting and other basic rights of a nation for long years, has risen to ask for its rights… Should this strife be seen as a Shiite-Sunni clash only because the oppressed majority is Shiite and the secular and tyrannical government pretends to be Sunni?” (Fars News Agency [Tehran], July 29).

Bahrain Protest 2


Iran is especially opposed to the presence of the Gulf Cooperation Council’s multi-nation Peninsular Shield Force and the regime’s reliance on foreign recruitment (particularly from South Asia) for its security forces (for the Peninsular Shield Force, see Terrorism Monitor Brief, March 24, 2011). According to Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir Abdollahian: “The continued presence of foreign law enforcement forces in Bahrain and (Manama’s) noncompliance with effective national talks will undermine people’s trust” (Fars News Agency, July 20).

King Hamad insists he is always ready for dialogue with the opposition while alluding to “foreign parties around us who have interest in instability [and] are politically encouraging violence, which certainly threatens Bahrain’s stability… Terror will not be allowed to have a foothold in a country that is a leader in development and civilization” (Ilaf, July 27).


The blast at al-Rifa’a did little to advance the cause of the political opposition in Bahrain; to the contrary, it has diverted attention from the policies of the Khalifah regime and helped authorities paint the opposition as terrorists, or potential terrorists at least.  If the international community adopts this view (easily done at a time when Shiites in Lebanon, Syria and Iran are being defined as threats to Western interests and allies in the Middle East), the Khalifah regime will have a free hand in disposing of demonstrators who violate the new “anti-terrorism” laws by taking to the streets in mid-August. Though the planned protests are modeled on those of Egypt, there are significant differences in the two situations; in Bahrain the military is solidly on the side of the regime, foreign military forces are on hand to deal with threats that cannot be contained by Bahrain’s security services, the opposition has only minimal international support and is publicly tainted by its alleged association with the Iranian regime.

Washington’s pro-democracy rhetoric continues to clash with its strategic disinterest in promoting democracy at the risk of jeopardizing American interests in the Middle East, a situation that is complicated by the demands of Shiite pro-democracy activists in Bahrain for protection from the “international community” (i.e. the United States and United Nations) against the regime’s “repeated human rights violations” (al-Wifaq [Manama], July 31). There is a perception amongst some Bahraini politicians that the U.S. ambassador and other foreign envoys are “meddling” in Bahrain’s internal affairs (al-Watan [Manama], July 30).

Though the Manama Document claimed that the regime’s “wrong practices of threatening people demanding reforms and democracy cannot succeed,” there is every sign that the al-Khalifah family will try to ride out the protests scheduled for mid-August knowing they have the full support of their more powerful but similarly autocratic neighbors in the Gulf region. They are also well aware that American support for universal democracy will not overcome fears of a democratically elected Shi’a majority government that could come under Iranian influence in a small nation that provides a vital and highly strategic base for the U.S. Fifth Fleet. There is also a danger that the majority Shi’a population of Saudi Arabia’s oil-producing Eastern Province might be inspired to follow the Bahrain example and produce further instability in the Gulf Region. However, the monarchy’s hard line on political reform has essentially polarized the political debate in Bahrain, with secularists and moderates being pushed aside in a confrontation with increasingly sectarian tones. Cancelling political protests indefinitely is not a sustainable approach to containing political unrest in Bahrain, where attempts to squash the opposition’s mid-August demonstrations through draconian legislation and punitive enforcement could ironically lead to the type of political violence most feared by the Emirate’s rulers.


  1. Graham Fuller and Rend Rahim Francke, The Arab Shi’a: The Forgotten Muslims, New York, 1999, pp. 119-123.
  2. Manama Document, Bahrain Justice and Development Movement, October 12, 2011,

This article was first published in the Jamestown Foundation Terrorism Monitor, August 9, 2013.

Bahrain Puts Shi’a Village under Siege

Andrew McGregor

Terrorism Monitor, November 2, 2012

Twenty months into a simmering Shiite “Arab Spring” style revolt in the Sunni-ruled Kingdom of Bahrain, the Gulf state’s Interior Ministry has issued orders banning all anti-government protests and demonstrations, claiming that Bahraini society was “fed up” with the regular demonstrations that call for the Khalifa royal family to step down (Mehr News Agency, October 30).

bahrain protestsProtests in Bahrain, 2012

The protests, often organized through social-networking sites, have continued despite violent crackdowns by Bahraini security forces that have killed at least 60 people. Bahrain’s role as host of the U.S. Fifth Fleet at the same time the kingdom’s monarchy represses calls for democracy by the Shi’a majority has given Iran a unique propaganda opportunity to attack their antagonists in America and the Sunni-ruled Gulf states.

Recently, Iranian press agencies seized on the alleged “siege” by Bahraini security forces of the village of al-Akr, 20 miles south of the Bahraini capital of Manama. Problems began in al-Akr on October 18, when police in the village were attacked with a homemade bomb that killed one officer and left a second in critical condition. Prior to the blast, residents of al-Akr were in the streets waving Bahrain’s flag and chanting slogans calling for the fall of the regime and the deposition of Bahrain’s ruler, Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa (BBC, October 19). The demonstration was one of several called for by the February 14 Youth Coalition, an opposition group that organizes through social networking sites (AFP, October 19). Shiite activists claimed that the policeman killed in the attack was a “foreign national” (al-Alam [Tehran], October 21).

bahrain al-akrSecurity forces detained seven men in the incident and placed a cordon around the village that police said was intended to help capture other suspects in the bombing (NOW Lebanon, October 23). Opposition reports claimed that government reports that life in the village was continuing normally were false, suggesting that “mercenary forces” were preventing food and medical aid from reaching the village, had attacked a Shiite mosque and were punishing the village for its “past defiant stances” (Bahrain Online, October 23; Fars News Agency, October 23). In the Bahraini context, “mercenary” is a euphemism for troops and policemen from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE who entered Bahrain in March 2011 as part of the Peninsula Shield Force (PSF), a multi-national armed force under the command of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) (see Terrorism Monitor Brief, March 24, 2011).

Despite its small size, the village of al-Akr has been a hotbed of anti-regime activity that has turned violent before. On April 9, seven policemen were injured (three critically) by what police described as a pipe bomb attached to a container full of gasoline detonated near a police checkpoint. Police entered the village and arrested four suspects the following day, reportedly beating the relatives of those suspects who had evaded arrest. The village was surrounded by police forces who opposition elements claimed were imposing “collective punishment” (al-Arabiya, April 10; UPI, April 11).

In the latest incident, Iranian reports claimed security forces surrounding al-Akr had used “bombs and poisonous gas against citizens passing along the streets” (Fars News Agency, October 28). While tear gas and “sound bombs” were reported to have been used in confrontations with demonstrators in al-Akr, there is no evidence the town has otherwise been bombed or shelled.

Hoseyn Sobhaninia, a senior member of the Majlis (Iranian parliament) roundly condemned the “siege”: “The deadly silence of the international community has given the al-Khalifa regime freedom to continue suppressing and killing people and they keep [creating] human rights catastrophes by attacking defenseless people” (Press TV [Tehran], October 26). Ten Bahraini opposition groups and NGOs went so far as to send an urgent appeal to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to intervene in lifting “the siege on al-Akr” and to take a firm stand against Bahrain’s “collective punishment policy” (, October 21). Human rights activists in Bahrain called for the trial of Interior Minister Shaykh Rashid bin Abdullah al-Khalifa for crimes against humanity (Fars News Agency, October 24). Other reports insisted that Shiite opposition groups were inflating the seriousness of the situation in al-Akr in order to deflect public attention from the death of the policeman and prevent the apprehension of his killers (al-Watan [Manama], October 22; October 23). Four suspects detained in relation to the bombing later told an activist who met them in custody that they had been beaten and tortured into signing confessions (Fars News Agency, October 23).

Clashes following protests against the police activity in al-Akr spread to the predominantly Shiite village of Bani Jamra where police used tear gas and shotguns firing birdshot to battle demonstrators armed with Molotov cocktails and iron rods on October 23 (BBC, October 26). There were also reports of clashes with police outside al-Akr as activists tried to enter the village (al-Awwamiyah, October 23). On October 25, security patrols were attacked in the streets of Manama with firebombs and iron rods (al-Wasat [Manama], October 26). The continuing protests and street violence demonstrate that the Bahraini regime is still far from quelling anti-regime activity, as well as proving that some activists are ready to raise the stakes with fatal attacks on local security forces. With Iran ready to fan the flames created by opposition activity, it is clear that even a relatively minor incident could be used to precipitate a broader Shi’a uprising against the rule of the Sunni royal family.

This article was originally published in the Jamestown Foundation Terrorism Monitor

Peninsula Shield Force Intervenes in Bahrain

Andrew McGregor

March 24, 2011

Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa has announced a “foreign plot” against his country was thwarted by the military intervention of forces under the command of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) (Global Arab Network, March 21; VOA, March 21). The deployment was apparently carried out without consultation with Washington though short notice was given (AFP, March 14). A rare moment of agreement was seen in the responses of Washington and Tehran, with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suggesting the “alarming” intervention was “not the answer” to Bahrain’s problems, while the Iranian Foreign Ministry described the intervention as “unacceptable” (CNN, March 17; Tehran Times, March 16). The GCC deployment indicates the Arab states of the Gulf region obviously feel more comfortable providing military support to regimes like Bahrain’s than revolutionaries such as those fighting in Libya.

PSFThe PSF Crosses into Bahrain over the King Fahd Causeway

The GCC member states, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, define security as a collective responsibility and therefore reject criticism from the UN and elsewhere that the arrival of GCC forces in Bahrain was a “foreign military intervention.” This stance has been supported by the Arab League, which described the entry of GCC troops as “legitimate” (WAM – Emirates News Agency, March 22). The Peninsula Shield Force (PSF) draws on troops from GCC member states and has fluctuated in size since its creation in 1982, ranging from between 5,000 men in its early days to a current total of nearly 40,000 troops including infantry, artillery, armor and combat support units with a permanent base at Hafar al-Batin in Saudi Arabia.

The PSF was created as the military wing of the GCC in response to the threat posed by the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, which threatened the security of the entire region. Pledged to protect the security and territorial integrity of member nations, the PSF was first mobilized in 1986 during the battle between Iran and Iraq for the Faq Peninsula, which brought the fighting dangerously close to several Gulf states and threatened oil exports.  After PSF troops were deployed in Kuwait during the second Gulf War of 1990-1991, the PSF intensified its efforts to transform itself into a highly coordinated, well-armed and thoroughly trained force capable of responding quickly to security threats (al-Sharq al-Awsat, March 16). The PSF was again deployed in Kuwait in 2003 in the lead-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

A PSF detachment of 1,000 mechanized Saudi troops and 500 police from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) crossed the causeway into Bahrain on March 13 in response to a request for military support from Bahrain. Qatari Colonel Abdullah al-Hajri has confirmed Qatari troops have joined the PSF in Bahrain, but did not elaborate on the size and composition of their contribution (AFP, March 18). Kuwait has also announced it is sending a naval group to protect Bahrain’s coastal waters (Watan [Kuwait], March 18).

In Bahrain, the PSF has been tasked with protecting infrastructure such as power stations, oil facilities and government buildings as well as maintaining law and order (Saudi Gazette, March 15).  Prominent Shiite cleric Shaykh Issa Qassim, a major supporter of the protests in Bahrain, told worshippers on March 18 that the GCC troops could be put to better use defending Palestinians in Gaza from Israeli attack than patrolling the streets of Bahrain (Arab Times, March 18).An opposition statement described the PSF’s arrival as “an overt occupation of the kingdom of Bahrain and a conspiracy against the unarmed people of Bahrain” (al-Sharq al-Awsat, March 15).

The PSF is led by joint forces commander Major General Mutlaq Salem al-Azima, who told al-Arabiya the PSF has no intention of interfering in Bahrain’s politics: “The role of the troops is to protect strategic sites, whether marine or air bases, as well as military camps outside the cities and they do not take part in Bahrain’s internal affairs… The troops will stay until foreign [i.e. Iranian] threats are warded off. Till this happens, the troops will remain to serve the military leadership of the kingdom of Bahrain” (al-Arabiya, March 23).

The commander of the Bahrain Defense Forces, Marshal Shaykh Khalifa bin Ahmed al-Khalifa and National Guard Commander Lieutenant General Shaykh Muhammad bin Isa al-Khalifa, both members of the ruling family,  inspected the PSF forces on March 23, where the BDF commander praised the work of the GCC troops in deterring threats to Bahrain (Bahrain News Agency, March 23).

Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, denounced the GCC’s military intervention and accused the United States of sponsoring the action:  “Regional nations hold the U.S. government accountable for such a heinous behavior… The U.S. seeks to save the Zionist regime and suppress popular uprisings. So, it supports certain governments” (Press TV [Tehran], March 17).  In a letter to the UN, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi asked: “How could one accept a government to invite foreign military forces to suppress its own citizens?” (Arab Times, March 18). Bahrain, which blames Iran for the unrest, withdrew its ambassador to Tehran in protest (Bahrain News Agency, March 15). The Saudi embassy in Tehran and a consulate in Mashhad have since been attacked by Iranian demonstrators opposing the PSF deployment in Bahrain (al-Sharq al-Awsat, March 21).

This article first appeared in the March 24, 2011 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor