Saudi Arabia on Tuesday held an unnamed foreign country as responsible for the unrest in its Eastern Province, home to a large Shiite population, after armed men opened fire on police during a protest on Monday.
The interior ministry said in a statement that 14 people had been injured and called on protesters to “clearly identify their loyalty to Allah and to their nation or their loyalty to that country.”
“A foreign country is trying to undermine national security by inciting strife in (the city of) al-Qatif,” the interior ministry statement added.
The reference to a foreign country meddling in a Shiite area in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain is usually a coded reference to Iran, the Saudi rival across Gulf waters.
The ministry said that after Monday's protest was dispersed by police, armed individuals opened fire on security forces, wounding 11.
The ministry vowed to use “an iron fist” against anyone who compromises the security of the nation and of citizens.
Saudi columnist Ali Khsheiban described the protests as “a blatant interference by Iran in the internal affairs of Saudi Arabia.”
“This shows that Iran’s pledges for calm in the Gulf are false. Gulf States have never been the source of domestic problems in Iran, but Tehran has continuously sought to destabilize the region.”