Arabs ponder implications of Iran’s unrest
On the other side of the Gulf, the United Arab Emirates authorities moved quickly to shut down a newspaper which ran a critical article about the repression. In Dubai, home to a huge Iranian expatriate community, protests were banned.
But in Bahrain, with a Sunni royal family, a restive Shia majority and fears of Iranian subversion, there was warm praise for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. « If he was a candidate in any Arab country against a current president, » wrote Qassim Hussain in al-Wasat, « the public would vote for him. »
In regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia, leader of the conservative Arab camp, there has been resounding public silence but private criticism – hardly surprising for an autocratic country with no political parties and where even local elections have been put on hold. Beneath the surface lies Saudi concern about possible unrest in the oil-producing Eastern province, where there is a Shia majority and a history of Iranian influence.
Unequivocal support for the Iranian regime came only from Syria – where President Bashar al-Assad won 97.6% in an uncontested referendum two years ago – and from Lebanon’s Hezbollah, whose secretary-general, Hassan Nasrallah, saluted Ahmadinejad’s victory as « a great hope to all the mujahideen and resistance movements who are fighting against the forces of oppression and occupation ».