Middle East

Major General Qassem Soleimani warns Bahrain: No choice for people but to resort to armed resistance

Major General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force has warns there could be armed resistance in Bahrain after the dictatorial Bahraini regime top Shia cleric was stripped of his citizenship.

General Qassem Soleimani said Bahrain’s action against Sheikh Isa Qassim is “redline and could set the region on fire”.

Dictatorial Bahraini regime accused the cleric of using his position to “serve foreign interests”, promoting “sectarianism and violence”.

Thousands of protesters have gathered near cleric Sheikh Isa Qassim home. They chanted slogans denouncing King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa and the dictatorial Bahraini regime. Bahrain’s interior ministry has warned against any protests.

The al-Khalifa [rulers of Bahrain] surely know their aggression against Sheikh Isa Qassim is a red line and that crossing it would set Bahrain and the whole region on fire, and it would leave no choice for people but to resort to armed resistance,” Gen Soleimani said in a statement released by Fars news agency.

Earlier, Iran’s foreign ministry also criticised the move. In a statement on Monday, the Iran’s foreign ministry condemned the Bahraini regime’s intensification of its security approach toward religious and national leaders, opposition to religious beliefs and principles, and misappropriation of religious assets and funds of the Bahraini people.

The cleric, who holds the religious rank of ayatollah, has backed protests led by the majority Shia community for greater civil and political rights.

The US state department said it was “alarmed” at the move, adding that it was “unaware of any credible evidence” to support the removal of citizenship, said John Kirby, a spokesman for the department.

Growing international concern about the situation was highlighted last week when the UN high commissioner for human rights warned that repression “will not eliminate people’s grievances”. The criticism was flatly rejected by the dictatorial Bahraini regime.

 Anti-government protesters hold posters of Ayatollah Isa Qassim during a demonstration in Budaiya. Photograph: Hamad I Mohammed/Reuters

Anti-government protesters hold posters of Ayatollah Isa Qassim during a demonstration in Budaiya. Photograph: Hamad I Mohammed/Reuters

The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (Bird), an exiled opposition group, warned that the move against Qassim would stoke unrest. “We are deeply concerned that these actions will escalate tensions on the streets and may even lead to violence, as targeting the country’s leading Shia cleric is considered … a red line for many Bahrainis,” said its director of advocacy, Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei.

The development against cleric Sheikh Isa Qassim comes less than a week after a court banned the country’s main opposition group, Wefaq National Islamic Society, closing its offices and ordering its assets to be frozen.

Wefaq’s political leader, Shia cleric Sheikh Ali Salman, is in prison and recently had his jail term increased to nine years, after being convicted in 2015.

A US diplomatic cable published by Wikileaks described Sheikh Isa Qassim as Wefaq’s spiritual leader. He is also regarded as the spiritual leader of Bahrain’s wider Shia community.

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