Shia crackdowns in Middle East

As Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, addressed the UN General Assembly in New York amid waves of protests against his country’s human rights track record and nuclear programme, the fabric of a longer standing conflict continues to be woven in the Middle East.

Indeed, his speech on Tuesday seemed aimed more at the West and not the Middle East, where Iran also faces its share of challenges in the UAE, Kuwait and Bahrain.

Despite its minority status as the only Shia country in a Sunni and Arab dominated region, Iran is frequently suspected and accused of meddling in the affairs of its neighbours. Iran’s influence is not a welcome development, especially as the US works to establish alliances in the Middle East that would help isolate Iran in the region as Washington tightens its sanctions against Tehran.

But this strategy will not be easy to execute in an area of the world where strong business ties can serve as a salve to heal wounds caused by ideological disputes.

Still, the UAE, which has very strong business ties to Iran, just this month agreed to restrict its dealings with Iran. But according to Human Rights Watch, the Gulf state has been deporting Shia Lebanese families for about a year. Palestinians from the Gaza Strip were also deported.

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