The Shiites of Saudi Arabia

(Current Trends in Islamist Ideology) Joshua Teitelbaum - As the Saudis move to restrain the rising strength of Iran and the Shiites outside the kingdom, they keep an ever-watchful eye over their own Shiite population. The ascendancy of the Shiites in Iraq and Lebanon has given rise to a feeling of empowerment among the Shiites of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Shiites constitute 10-15% of the population, and about 33% of the population in the Eastern Province. During the 1990s the nature of relations between the Saudi regime and the Shiites changed from confrontation to accommodation. But one organization accepted neither engagement nor accommodation with the Saudi regime. This was Hezbollah al-Hijaz, known also as Saudi Hezbollah and Ansar Khat al-Imam (Followers of Imam Khomeini). They follow the marjaiyya of Ayatollah Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, and they are politically loyal to him. It is this group that is usually held responsible for the bombing of the Khobar Towers complex in Dhahran in 1996, which killed 19 American servicemen. The attack was carried out with Iranian support. The writer is a Visiting Fellow at Stanford University's Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law and the Hoover Institution.

2010-09-06 07:59:00

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