A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Saudis Blame Qatif Riots on "a Foreign Power"

On Monday evening, clashes broke out in a village near the city of Qatif in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province, the Shi‘ite area of the country, which has frequently been an area of dissidence, including some incidents earlier this year. At least 14 people were injured (mostly police, according to the Saudis), but the situation remains unclear. Accounts from the BBC here, from Al Jazeera English, and for a Saudi version, Arab News.

Okay class: when the Saudis blame a "foreign power" for stirring up their Shi‘ite minority (the old "outside agitators" explanation), do you immediately think "it's probably Costa Rica" or "They must mean Finland"?  (No, the Finnish conspiracy is all concentrated in giving away Angry Birds free for our phones, aimed at destroying US productivity by making us all addicts. I think there was a Star Trek like that. Nokia probably has something to do with it too.) (Any Finnish readers: I'm joking. No one wastes their time playing Angry Birds.)

No, they are, of course, referring to Iran. Now, for all I know, Iran could indeed be involved, but as we've seen in Bahrain, a knee-jerk blaming of any Shi‘ite dissidence on Iran resonates well among other Gulf monarchies and the Sunni world generally.

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