Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has accused Bahrain's Sunni-led government of "blatant foolishness and insanity" for stripping the kingdom's most prominent Shi'ite cleric of his citizenship.
Bahrain stripped Ayatollah Isa Qassem of his citizenship on June 20, accusing him of using his position to "serve foreign interests" -- an apparent reference to Shi’ite-led Iran -- and promoting "sectarianism and violence."
Qassem has backed protests led by the Persian Gulf state's Shi’ite majority for greater civil and political rights.
The decision prompted an outpouring of citizen protest and warnings from Tehran that it could provoke an armed uprising.
Khamenei's website on June 25 quoted him as saying the "knowledgeable" Qassem was a moderate who would have worked to "prevent extremist tactics."
"Now, no obstacle can prevent these young enthusiasts from rising up," Khamenei added.