Gulf media highlight growing unrest in Iran
LONDON -As protests over petrol price hikes broke out in Iran, Arab Gulf media were quick to highlight Iranians’ deep-seated frustration with government in Tehran and the economic situation in the country.
In Saudi Arabia, media reporting of the protests reflected the Saudi government line, which has been dismayed at Iran’s antagonistic behaviour.
Saudi-owned Al Arabiya pointed to the magnitude of the protests, showing pictures of demonstrators burning images of the Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and chanting “Death to Khamenei.”
The protests in Iran began November 15 after the Iranian government spiked fuel prices by as much as 200% at a time the Iranian economy and its currency are in shambles because of sanctions tied to the country’s controversial nuclear programme.
The government of Iranian President Hassan Rohani blamed the unrest on foreign enemies, a sentiment echoed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Amnesty International said more than 100 demonstrators had been killed.
Al Arabiya posted on-screen headlines that read “Iran rises up!” and protests “calling for the downfall of the regime,” while reporting on the “crackdown on protesters” and “threats by the security forces.”
Sky News Arabia, out of Abu Dhabi, focused on the widespread nature of the protests in addition to the government’s crackdown.
The channel also ran a lengthy item citing a “Western intelligence report” that purportedly revealed that officials in Iran and Qatar had knowledge of suspicious activity before attacks on ships off the UAE coast in May.
Sky News Arabia said Iran warned Qatar against owning maritime assets in the area around the time of the attack, which it said was carried out by al-Quds Force, the IRGC’s external wing.
Four commercial ships were damaged May 12 off Fujairah’s coast in the Gulf of Oman. The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs said at the time that the ships were targets of a “sabotage attack.”
Qatar’s Al Jazeera network’s reporting of the Iranian protests was sympathetic towards the government in Tehran, relaying Iranian authorities’ claims that the unrest was caused by “instigators.”
Al Jazeera carried headlines about Khamenei’s remarks blaming Iran’s enemies for standing behind the “sabotage,” while devoting airtime statements by Iran’s intelligence services, the official news agency ISNA, parliament Speaker Ali Larijani and other Iranian officials.
In 2017, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut off diplomatic and economic ties, including closing shared borders, sea routes and airspace, with Qatar over what they described as Doha’s suspected support of Islamist terrorist groups and its relations with Iran.
The Arab Quartet made 13 demands it said Qatar needed to comply with for sanctions to be lifted. The demands included shutting down Al Jazeera, severing links to radical groups and downgrading ties with Iran.