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BEIRUT, Lebanon – To Shi’ite Iran’s delight, demonstrations by Shi’a in the bastion of Sunni Islam, Saudi Arabia, have spread not only in its eastern province but now to the country’s capital, Riyadh, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
The immediate reason for the demonstrations in Riyadh was to protest the detention of political prisoners who have demonstrated in the past against the monarchy of the al-Saud family and remain in jail without charges, let alone a fair trial.
There has been repeated violence by Shi’ites during demonstrations in the eastern province where most of Saudi Arabia’s oil production takes place. Many of them come from the majority Shia population in Bahrain which isn’t very far away.
In an effort to stem the demonstrations in Bahrain, the Saudis last year dispatched troops, along with the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, to protect the Sunni monarchy there, which violently has squelched demonstrations by a population in Bahrain which is majority Shi’ite.
Nevertheless, the spillover effect of demonstrations in Bahrain not only reached Saudi Arabia’s eastern province but they are now occurring in Riyadh.
The demonstrators in the eastern province, mainly in the Qatif region of the town of Awamiyah, have been calling for the release of all political prisoners, freedom of expression and assembly and an end to widespread discrimination.
The demonstrations in the eastern province began in February 2011 but since last November have become more political in calling for the removal of the Sunni al-Saud monarchy.
Shi’te uprisings not only are occurring in Bahrain close to Saudi Arabia’s eastern province but also in neighboring Yemen, where security forces are dealing with a rising tide of al-Qaida Islamists who also want to see the Saudi monarchy removed. There’s also been conflict in north Yemen with the Houthis.
The Houthis are Shi’ite and are said to be receiving assistance from Shi’ite Iran, whom Saudi Arabia believes is responsible for Shi’ite unrest in the predominantly Sunni-led Gulf Arab states.
In Saudi Arabia, there is an Interior Ministry directive prohibiting “all forms of demonstrations, marches or protests, and calls for them, because that contradicts the principles of the Islamic Shariah, the values and traditions of Saudi society, and results in disturbing public order and harming public and private interests.”
And now, Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud has ordered the country’s security forces on a state of high alert to what he has called a “turbulent situation” in the region.
For the United States, stability in the Saudi kingdom will be paramount if the flow of oil from that country is to meet U.S. energy demands and to help fuel the U.S. and indeed global economic recovery.
The growing concern, however, will be increased instability and sabotage of the oil production in the eastern province while threats from Iran to shut down the Strait of Hormuz also could impede the transit of energy and commerce from the region and spike upwards the price for oil, a development to which both Iran and Russia – both oil producing countries – would not be opposed.
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