A top Iranian military officer on Saturday denounced what he called an “Arab dictatorial front” and claimed that the “Persian Gulf has belonged to Iran forever,” media reports said.
“The Arab dictatorial regimes in the Persian Gulf are unable to contain the popular uprisings,” Major General Hassan Firouzabadi, the chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces, was widely quoted as saying by Iranian media on Saturday.
“Instead of trying and failing to open an unworkable front against Iran, these dictators should relinquish power, end their savage crimes and let the people determine their own future,” General Firouzabadi said.
He also denounced “plots” by the Gulf Arab monarchies to “carve out an identity for themselves by rejecting the identity of others,” referring to Iran.
“The Persian Gulf has always, is and shall always belong to Iran,” he said.
General Firouzabadi, speaking on the annual “National Day of the Persian Gulf,” also condemned the regional Arab monarchies for refusing to call the waterway between Iran and its Arab neighbors by its “historical name.”
“With the arrival of the British and later the Americans in the region, plots were hatched to try and change the name with fake identities… to distort the history and identity of the Persian Gulf,” General Firouzabadi said.
According to the Iranian military leader, world powers have, by hiding their “evil intentions,” managed to deceive Gulf States and encouraged them to purchase modern, expensive military equipment such as US-made warships.
“It is evident that such attempts are aimed at sowing discord and creating tension in regional Muslim states and perhaps to promote the Iranophobia scenario so as to make huge economic profits,” General Firouzabadi said, according to Iran’s English-language Press TV.
Relations between Iran and its Gulf Arab neighbors have deteriorated sharply, with the latter accusing Tehran of seeking to destabilize Arab regimes by promoting popular unrest that has erupted in many Arab countries.
Bahrain’s monarch declared martial law in March 2011, and invited about 1,500 Saudi-led troops from the Gulf to help contain an uprising that Sunni leaders around the Middle East believe could open the way for greater influence by Iran in Bahrain, where Shiites hold a demographic majority.
Shiite-dominant Iran has strongly criticized Saudi Arabia’s military intervention in Bahrain aimed to help crack down on the Shiite-led revolt.
Iran says it gives “moral support” to Bahrainis but is not involved in the protests there.
Bahrain and Kuwait have in turn expelled Iranian diplomats, accusing them of espionage.
On Monday, the state-owned Bahrain News Agency reported that Hujatullah Rahmani, the second secretary at the Iranian Embassy in Manama, was declared a persona non grata and ordered out of Bahrain within 72 hours.
Iran has in the past claimed Bahrain as part of its territory, and it controls three islands in the southern Gulf that are also claimed by the United Arab Emirates.
Last week, Bahrain’s foreign minister said the Saudi-led force would stay indefinitely to counter perceived threats from Iran.
(Sara Ghasemilee of Al Arabiya can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org)