Greater Trouble Ahead’ - Saudi-Iran Tension .

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  1. Zebra

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    Saudi Arabia Vows ‘Iron Fist’ After Attack in Oil Province

    October 05, 2011, 2:21 AM EDT
    By Glen Carey

    Saudi Arabia vowed to use “an iron fist” after 11 members of the security forces were injured by attackers during unrest in a Shiite Muslim town in the east, the official Saudi Press Agency said.

    The government accused an unidentified “foreign country” of seeking to undermine the stability of the kingdom as a result of the violence in Awwamiya, in which the assailants, some on motorcycles, used machine guns and Molotov cocktails, the Riyadh-based news service reported late yesterday. A man and two women were also injured, it said.

    Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil supplier, escaped the mass protests that toppled the leaders of Egypt and Tunisia this year and spread to Saudi neighbors Yemen and Bahrain. There were rallies earlier in the year in mostly Shiite eastern Saudi Arabia, including Awwamiya and al-Qatif village.

    Predominantly Sunni Saudi Arabia has accused Shiite-led Iran of interfering in the affairs of Arab countries in the Persian Gulf, home to three-fifths of the world’s oil reserves. Iran denies the charge and accuses Sunni rulers in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia of discriminating against Shiites. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries sent troops to Bahrain in March to quell the mainly Shiite unrest.

    ‘Greater Trouble Ahead’

    “Given that this happened in the predominantly Shiite area of Saudi Arabia, in its east, this could be a sign of greater trouble ahead,” Paul Sullivan, a political scientist specializing in Middle East security at Georgetown University in Washington, said yesterday in response to e-mailed questions. “It could easily ratchet up Saudi-Iran tensions.”

    King Abdullah announced $130 billion in spending in February and March in response to the spread of unrest in the Middle East. The kingdom’s senior religious scholars responded by issuing a statement calling protests un-Islamic, ahead of a so-called Day of Rage planned for March 11 in Saudi Arabia. Protesters stayed off the streets amid a high security presence.

    “Using motorcycles is a new tactic in Saudi Arabia,” said Theodore Karasik, director of research at the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis. “It is a new way to get around security forces. Oil prices will likely rise because of the nature of the attack and if the violence continues.”

    Oil gained for the first day in four in New York after a surprise drop in U.S. crude stockpiles led investors to reduce bets that prices will decline. Crude for November delivery rose 2.8 percent to $77.75 a barrel at 6:45 a.m. in London.

    ‘Discrimination Condoned’

    Saudi Arabia produced 9.8 million barrels of oil a day in September, while Iran pumped 3.6 million barrels a day, according to Bloomberg data.

    Saudi Arabia’s Shiite minority is concentrated in its eastern oil-producing hub. The U.S. State Department said in a human-rights report on Saudi Arabia published in 2009 that Shiites face “significant political, economic, legal, social and religious discrimination condoned by the government.”

    The rioters must decide whether “their loyalty is with their homeland or to that state and its authorities,” the Interior Ministry said in a statement, according to the Saudi Press Agency. The attack took place at 9 p.m. local time on Oct. 3, the news service said.

    The government called on “rational members of their families, those of whose loyalties we have no doubts, to bear their responsibilities towards their sons,” the interior ministry said. “Otherwise, all will bear the consequences of their actions.”

    Saudi-Iran Tension

    Bahrain’s Saudi-backed rulers detained hundreds of people, most of them sharing Iran’s Shiite faith, following a crackdown on protesters who held rallies in February and March to demand a more representative government. At least 35 people were killed during the clashes. Shiites represent about 70 percent of Bahrain’s population, according to the U.S. State Department, while its hereditary rulers are Sunni.

    “What we may be beginning to see is the response to the crackdown in Bahrain,” Karasik said in a phone interview. “There may be more radical, new groups, who are attacking Saudi security forces in terms of the Sunni-Shiite divide.”

    Saudi Arabia, which holds 20 percent of the world’s oil reserves, enforces restrictions interpreted from the Wahhabi version of Sunni Islam. In addition to the restrictions on women, the government limits the practices of other branches of Islam.

    Saudi Arabia Vows ‘Iron Fist’ After Attack in Oil Province - Businessweek
     
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