Satellite TV news, serials widen Iranian-Arab gulf
By Firouz Sedarat
DUBAI (Reuters) - Satellite television channels are widening the divide between Arabs and Iranians by airing alleged calls by Iran for revolt in Gulf states and what Tehran sees as Western-driven cultural propaganda aimed at toppling its Islamic theocracy.
Mistrust has long vexed relations between Shi'ite Muslim Iran and the U.S.-backed, conservative Sunni Muslim Arab monarchies on the other side of the Gulf.
But the atmosphere worsened dramatically this year as contagion from popular protests that overthrew three North African leaders reached Gulf Arab states with substantial but largely powerless Shi'ite communities.
Bahrain has accused Iran's Arabic-language news channel Al Alam of inciting Shi'ite-led protests that threatened the Sunni al-Khalifa ruling family earlier this year before they were suppressed with the help of Saudi and Emirati forces.
Likewise, Saudi Arabia has indirectly blamed Iran for unrest in its oil-producing Eastern Province, home to many Shi'ites.
"Around-the-clock broadcasts in Arabic by Iran's state-run radio and television stations incited our population to engage in acts of violence, sabotage, and insurrection," Bahraini King Hamad complained in November.
"Iran's propaganda fuelled the flames of sectarian strife." Tehran has denied egging on Shi'ite protesters abroad.
Iran's bete noires in the Arab world include Gulf-based television stations backed by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, which air popular soaps and romantic dramas deemed "immoral" by the Iranian clerical authorities. Continued...