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Saudi Arabia woos Persian-speaking Sunnis in Central Asia

A deterioration in economic and political relations between Tehran and Dushanbe since moderate Hassan Rouhani first took office has allowed Saudi Arabia to expand its influence in Tajikistan at Iran’s expense.
Men pray during Kurban-Ait, also known as Eid al-Adha in Arabic, at a mosque in the village of Nurabad, some 40 km (25 miles) west of the capital Dushanbe, November 16, 2010. Muslims around the world celebrate Eid al-Adha, marking the end of the haj, by slaughtering sheep, goats, cows and camels to commemorate Prophet Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son Ismail on God's command.  REUTERS/Nozim Kalandarov  (TAJIKISTAN - Tags: RELIGION) - RTXUOWO

In an unprecedented move that surprised many observers around the world, Tajikistan’s state TV on Aug. 8 aired a documentary accusing Iran of involvement in the murder of several Tajik social and political figures as well as 20 Russian military officers in the country during the 1990s Tajik civil war. The documentary further claimed that at the time, Iran had organized a plot to “eliminate Tajik scientists and intellectuals.” The accusations, emphatically rejected by Iran, were just the latest and the most blatant move by the Tajikistan government against the Islamic Republic.

On June 30, it was announced that Tajik authorities had ordered the closure of Iran’s economic and cultural centers in the northern city of Khujand. Unofficial news sources indicate that in spite of Russian and Chinese support for Iran to become a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Tajikistan’s repeated opposition has been the main hurdle in this regard.

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