Khamenei Says Iran Won't Intervene in Bahrain despite Tensions
Iran will not intervene in Bahrain despite a growing risk of internal conflict caused by the kingdom's treatment of its Shiite majority population, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Wednesday.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran will not intervene in any way in the affairs of Bahrain," Khamenei told a gathering of top officials to mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan, in remarks carried on his official website.
"But if political wisdom exists in this country (Bahrain), they should not allow the political conflict to transform into a civil war," he added.
Bahrain and its ally Saudi Arabia frequently accuse Iran, the region's predominant Shiite power, of fomenting unrest in the tiny kingdom, which Tehran firmly denies.
But Iran has strongly criticized the repressive actions of the Sunni monarchy in Bahrain, which rules over a 70-percent Shiite population.
There was particular concern over Bahrain's decision to strip the country's leading Shiite cleric, Ayatollah Isa Qassim, of his nationality last month.
"Surely they know that the aggression against Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim is a red line... that will leave no option for the people but to resort to armed resistance," Qassem Suleimani, head of the elite Revolutionary Guards' overseas operations arm, the Quds Force, told state media at the time.
There has been mounting international criticism of Bahrain, which stepped up moves to dissolve the main Shiite opposition bloc last month.
Even the United States, a close ally that has its Fifth Fleet stationed in Bahrain, condemned the action against Qassim, saying it was "deeply troubled by the government of Bahrain's practice of withdrawing the nationality of its citizens arbitrarily."