The war of words between oil-rich Iran and Saudi Arabia is escalating dangerously following Riyadh's military intervention in Bahrain, where a security crackdown against pro-democracy dissidents shows no signs of abating.
On Monday, Major-General Yahya Rahim Safavi, a top advisor to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, bluntly warned Saudi Arabia that its intervention in Bahrain could boomerang. “The presence and attitude of Saudi Arabia [in Bahrain] sets an incorrect precedence for similar future events, and Saudi Arabia should consider this fact that one day the very same event may recur in Saudi Arabia itself and Saudi Arabia may come under invasion for the very same excuse,” General Safavi asserted. Chairman of Iran's Joint Chiefs of Staff Major-General Hassan Firouzabadi reinforced the warning on Tuesday by calling the movement of Saudi Arabian troops into Bahrain, “as a blunder committed by the Saudi government”.
The Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) quoted him as saying that Saudi Arabia “has actually dealt a blow on its security and has to pay its consequences”.
Earlier, Prince Turki bin Mohammad, Saudi Arabia's Deputy Foreign Minister threatened to pull out his country's diplomats from Iran unless Tehran improved their security cover. “I hope we won't be obliged to withdraw our diplomatic mission from Tehran if Iran fails to take the necessary measures to protect it,” he said, after protesting students last Monday hurled flaming Molotov cocktails at the Embassy building.
Around 1,000 Saudi troops last month moved into Bahrain at the invitation of the Bahraini government. They are part of a force belonging to the Gulf Cooperation Council, which also includes 500 personnel from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Kuwait. Within hours of their arrival, Bahraini forces launched a fierce crackdown at the Pearl Roundabout, where thousands of protesters demanding political reforms had encamped.
In a statement on Monday, Amnesty International quoting local human rights group said that since March, Bahraini authorities have detained 499 people “including opposition and human rights activists, teachers, doctors and nurses, for their participation in the February and March protests calling for far-reaching political and other reform in Bahrain”. It added that the whereabouts of the great majority of detainees remain unknown. If prosecuted, the detainees “may face unfair trials before the National Safety Court of First Instance and a National Safety Appeal Court”. These courts were established after the King of Bahrain, Sheikh Hamad bin Issa Al Khalifa, declared emergency in the Kingdom on March 15.
Bahraini authorities, citing an “external” security threat — a veiled reference to Iran — to the Kingdom, have stressed that an early departure of Saudi troops from Bahrain was unlikely. “There is an external threat on the whole Gulf,” Bahrain's Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa told reporters in Dubai on Monday on the sidelines of an anti-piracy conference. Separately, Bahrain's Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, who has just returned to Manama after a brief visit of Saudi Arabia, cited the anti-government protests as a “coup attempt”. During his visit to Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom's monarch, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, stressed that the “security of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia is indivisible — being two bodies with one soul,” the state-run Bahrain News Agency said.