Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says the deadly crackdown by Bahraini security forces on protesters was the outcome of US President Donald Trump “cozying up” to despots during a recent visit to Saudi Arabia.
“First concrete result of POTUS cozying up to despots in Riyadh: Deadly attack on peaceful protesters by emboldened Bahraini regime. Google it,” Zarif said on his official Twitter account on Tuesday.
Zarif’s twitter came on the same day that Bahraini regime forces stormed into the residence of Sheikh Isa Qassim, the spiritual leader of the country’s Shia majority in a northwestern village, arresting everyone inside the house.
Security forces launched a bloody attack on protesters who had convened in al-Fida Square in the village of Diraz. The regime also blocked Internet access in the area.
Bahraini security forces shot and killed at least two demonstrators during the operation. There have been reports of security forces firing birdshot at protesters and teargas into the house of the prominent cleric.
The Bahraini Interior Ministry announced in a statement that security forces had arrested 50 demonstrators in the village but the senior cleric was not among them.
The bloody operations in Diraz are likely to raise tensions in Bahrain days after the US president said Washington’s relationship with Manama – long strained over its human rights record – would improve.
The Persian Gulf state is home to the US Navy’s 5th fleet.
Bahraini regime’s miscalculation
Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi also on Tuesday denounced the attack by Bahraini security forces on protesters and the raid on the residence of Sheikh Qassim, saying the move was a “miscalculation” by the Manama regime.
“The Bahraini government complicated the ongoing situation in the country more than before with its attack on the village of Diraz and its raid on the home of senior cleric Sheikh Isa Qassim as well as killing and injuring tens of defenseless and peace-seeking protesters,” Qassemi said.
He added that the escalation of suppression and pursuit of sectarian and religious approaches against the Bahraini people would fail to help the settlement of the crisis in the country.
The Iranian spokesperson pointed to Sheikh Qassim’s senior religious and political position among Muslims and said the Bahraini government would be held responsible for the possible consequences of any assault against him.
Qassemi urged the Bahraini regime to stop its security and military approach and pursue a political settlement and national talks instead of relying on the support of foreign sides in dealing with the religious and political leaders and the people’s legitimate demands.
He also urged Manama to prepare the ground for solving the crisis by having confidence in the country’s people.
Diraz is the native village of Sheikh Isa Qassim. It has been the scene of protests since last June, when the authorities stripped the cleric of his citizenship over accusations that he used his position to serve foreign interests and promote “sectarianism” and “violence.” He has denied the allegations.
The protests escalated after a court convicted Qassim on Sunday of the illegal collection of funds and money laundering and sentenced him to one year in jail suspended for three years. The charges emanate from the collection of an Islamic donation called Khums, which in Shia Islam is collected and spent by a senior cleric in the interests of the needy.