Iran and its leading proxy Hezbollah have been quick to jump on a controversial decision by Bahrain to strip a leading Shia cleric of his citizenship, calling on the Arab Gulf state's Shia majority to overthrow the government.
Shiite cleric Sheikh Isa Qassim’s citizenship was revoked on Monday, just one day after the main Shiite opposition party, Al-Wefaq, was banned. The moves came as the Bahraini government attempts to stamp out ongoing unrest – which began with a nationwide uprising in 2011 that was violently quelled by security forces – which it says is being actively stoked by its neighbor Tehran.
On Tuesday, the commander of Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guards elite Qods Force warned Bahrain would "pay the price" for revoking Qassim's citizenship, and issued a thinly-veiled call for an uprising by Bahraini Shiites.
"Surely they know that the aggression against Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim is a red line… that will leave no option for the people but to resort to armed resistance," General Qassem Suleimani told Iranian state media.
The Bahraini government "will pay the price and it will have no result but the destruction of this bloodthirsty regime," he warned.
Meanwhile, the Hezbollah terrorist organization issued a similar call for Shiites in Bahrain to stage an "uprising," in statements circulated in the Lebanese media.
Bahrain has repeatedly accused Iran and Hezbollah of orchestrating violence in the island as a means of destabilizing and ultimately overthrowing the government in favor of a pro-Iranian Shia regime.'
Earlier this year, Bahrain's security services announced the arrest of a Hezbollah terrorist cell in the country.
Demonstrations have already erupted in several Shiite neighborhoods over the recent measures.