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IRAN: Protesters slam Bahrain's royal family, U.S. for crackdown on dissidents

March 18, 2011 |  9:01 am

Protest iran bahrain More than 1,000 Iranians took part in an officially sanctioned protest Friday against the royal family of Bahrain and its Western allies in connection with a violent crackdown against largely Shiite anti-government demonstrators.

Protesters in Tehran shouted "Death to Al Khalifa in Bahrain" and "Death to America," referring to the close alliance between the Khalifa ruling family and the United States.

"We are all Muslims," protester Ali Asadpour, 58, told Babylon & Beyond. "We should be united against the arrogant power, the U.S., and we want an Islamic system in Bahrain."

Sunni government loyalists in Bahrain have tried to discredit the protest movement there by alleging it has ties with Iran and the Shiite paramilitary party Hezbollah in Lebanon, a claim the protesters deny.

Nevertheless, the Iranian government has been particularly outspoken in its criticism of Bahrain, and the two countries withdrew their ambassadors this week after the intervention of Saudi troops in Bahrain.

Iranian officials have also condemned American support for Bahrain, which is home to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet. President Obama has called on the governments of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia to show "maximum restraint" but did not condemn the violence or ask Saudi troops to withdraw from Bahrain.

Iranian parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani accused the U.S. of seeking to spark a sectarian war between Shiites and Sunnis by backing the Sunni monarchy in Bahrain.

"Raising the issue of Shiitephobia to wage war between Shiites and Sunnis is one of the U.S. [policies] followed by some wicked politicians to conceal their apparent aggression in Bahrain," Larijani told al-Alam News Channel on Friday, according to the Iranian Student News Agency. "But the issue cannot be concealed, and Saudi and the [United Arab Emirates] are throwing stones at their glass palaces as they invade Bahrain."

In a sermon proceeding the protest, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati called the protesters in Bahrain "brothers and sisters" and called on them to "resist against the enemy until you die or win," according to the Associated Press.

Several hard-line government officials and lawmakers were also in attendance, as well as representatives from the judiciary.

"God willing, the Islamic regime will be erected in Bahrain and the U.S.A. will be disappointed and its conspiracy will be foiled," said Fatemeh, a 40-year-old high school teacher who attended the protest.

"We want an Islamic republic in Bahrain," said Hasan, 40, who attended Friday's rally. "Most of them are Shiites, and all of them are Muslim."

Others held signs that said "The awakening of the Islamic world equals the death of American arrogance" and "The Wahabi regime in Saudi is against the unity of Muslims," as well as "Al Khalifa in Bahrain, Kadafi in Libya and Saudi regime are all U.S. stooges."

But for some, the enthusiasm to denounce America's Arab allies appeared to stray into general anti-Western catharsis.

"Kadafi in Libya commits murder, and the U.S. supports his regime. Death to Kadafi and death to America!" blared speakers mounted on a nearby van.

The United States voted Thursday in favor of a United Nations resolution approving military strikes against Libyan forces, which have been battling rebels against Kadafi's government. But critics charge that the U.S. was approving shipments of non-lethal military supplies to Libya until recently.

-- Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran and Meris Lutz in Beirut

Photo: A man shouts slogans against the Bahraini monarchy and the U.S. during a demonstration in Tehran on Friday. Credit: Vahid Salemi / Associated Press

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