Graphic run on the website of Iran's Supreme Leader

Graphic run on the website of Iran’s Supreme Leader

Longtime tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran have now reached a fever pitch with Saudi Arabia announcing that it’s ending relations with Iran amid a growing furor over its execution of a Shiiite cleric — one of more than 40 prisoners executed over the weekend. The war of words is escalating and the fear is it could eventually advance beyond words.

Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties with Iran on Sunday and gave Iranian diplomats 48 hours to leave the kingdom, intensifying a strategic and sectarian rivalry that underpins conflicts across the Middle East.

The surprise move, announced in a news conference by Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi foreign minister, followed harsh criticism by Iranian leaders of the execution of an outspoken Shiite cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, in Saudi Arabia and the storming of the Saudi Embassy in Tehran by protesters in response.

The cutting of diplomatic ties came as the United States and other countries were hoping that even limited cooperation between the two powers could help end the crushing civil wars in Syria and Yemen and ease tensions in Iraq, Bahrain, Lebanon and elsewhere.

Instead, analysts feared it would increase sectarian divisions and investment in proxy battles.

“This is a very disturbing escalation,” said Michael Stephens, an analyst at the Royal United Services Institute research center in London. “It has enormous consequences for the people of the region, and the tensions between the two sides are going to mean that instability across the region is going to continue.”

Saudi officials did not mince words in announcing the break:

Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir told a news conference Iran’s diplomatic mission and related entities in Saudi Arabia had been given 48 hours to leave. He said Riyadh would not allow Tehran to undermine the Kingdom’s security.
He added that all Saudi diplomats and staff have arrived in the UAE from Iran and are on their way to the Kingdom.
He called Tehran a regional menace for its smuggling of arms and explosives and its previous harboring of Al-Qaeda militants.
In Tehran, angry crowds hurled Molotov cocktails and stormed the Embassy. Fires were seen burning inside the building.
He said the aggressive statements of the Iranian regime encouraged the attacks on Saudi missions, adding that Iran has a history of supporting terrorism, citing its support to the bloody regime of Bashar Assad.
Al-Jubeir said the Kingdom rejects all criticism of the Saudi justice system.
He called on the international community to review Iranian intransigence, stressing that “all options are open for us to deter Iran.”
He added that each Gulf country will decide what measures to be taken to contain Iran.
In response to a reporter’s question Al-Jubeir said the Iranian government is involved in the attacks on the Saudi Embassy, adding that Iranian security were present at the scene yet they never attempted to drive out the protesters.
“In Iraq, we have received assurances from the Iraqi government that it will ensure the safety of our embassy and our diplomats in Baghdad,” Al-Jubeir said.
Earlier, a ministry spokesman accused Iran of sponsoring terror and undermining regional stability.
“The Iranian regime is the last regime in the world that could accuse others of supporting terrorism, considering that (Iran) is a state that sponsors terror, and is condemned by the UN and many countries,” he said in a statement to SPA.
“Iran’s regime has no shame as it rants on human rights matters, even after it executed hundreds of Iranians last year without a clear legal basis,” said the statement.
“Iran’s criticism of the execution of terrorists and its hostile statements are blatant interference in the Kingdom’s internal affairs,” said the statement.
Iran has offered “many Al-Qaeda leaderships safe haven since 2001” in addition to “offering an Iranian passport” to a Saudi suspect involved in 1996 bombings in the Kingdom who was arrested last year, the ministry said.

Earlier, Iran warned Saudi Arabia it would pay a stiff price for its execution of the cleric:

Iran’s Supreme Leader warned on Sunday that there would be divine retribution for Saudi Arabia’s rulers after the execution of a renowned Shiite cleric, sustaining the soaring regional tensions that erupted in the wake of the killing.

The warning came hours after crowds of protesters stormed and torched the Saudi embassy in Tehran to vent their anger at the execution of Nimr Baqr al-Nimr, who was among 47 people put to death in the kingdom on Saturday.
Iran’s Supreme Leader warned on Sunday that there would be divine retribution for Saudi Arabia’s rulers after the execution of a renowned Shiite cleric, sustaining the soaring regional tensions that erupted in the wake of the killing.

The warning came hours after crowds of protesters stormed and torched the Saudi embassy in Tehran to vent their anger at the execution of Nimr Baqr al-Nimr, who was among 47 people put to death in the kingdom on Saturday.

In a posting on his website, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that the execution “will cause serious troubles for the politicians of this [Saudi] regime in a very short time….The hands of divine vengeance will surely snatch — by their necks — those cruel individuals who took his life.”

The execution of Nimr, an outspoken critic of the Saudi royal family, has ignited sectarian tensions across the already inflamed region and jeopardized U.S. diplomacy aimed at tamping down conflicts in the Middle East.

Most of the 47 executed on Saturday were Sunnis accused of participating in Al Qaeda attacks. According to Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry, some were beheaded and others were shot by firing squad in 12 different locations around the kingdom.

Nimr, however, was one of four Shiites put to death for political activism and the leading figure in the anti-government demonstrations that swept the mostly Shiite east of the country in 2011, inspired by the Arab Spring protests elsewhere in the region.

A photo montage also posted on Khamenei’s website showed a split image of an Islamic State fighter preparing to carry out a beheading and a Saudi executioner. The caption asks the question “Any difference?” The photograph echoed numerous Iranian accusations that Saudi Arabia supports the Islamic State.

On Twitter and elsewhere, the focus of attention of many political aware Americans remains on the Presidential race and the seizing of a federal wildlife refuge building in Oregon by a militia. But the importance of events in the Middle East can’t be underestimated — or overlooked. As Martin Longman puts it:

Which story is completely dominating what progressives want to talk about on Twitter?

I get that people don’t like how white men can be treated with respect even when they’re armed to the teeth, breaking the law, and messing with federal property.

But I think some perspective is in order. That’s all I’m saying.

You can safely ignore the idiots in Oregon. But I’d keep my eye on the Middle East if I were you.

But the horserace and opportunity to express outrage is a lot easier than pondering or worrying about events abroad that could have some long range, serious consequences for the region — and American national security. Diplomats from both sides have indicated they don’t want this crisis to futher escalate — but if certain things happen it could lead to an increase in oil prices. Or worse.















JOE GANDELMAN, Editor-In-Chief
Sort by:   newest | oldest
Robert P. Coutinho
Member
8 months 21 days ago

Bahrain has followed the Saudi lead.

Markus1
Member
Markus1
8 months 21 days ago
I think that the US should take definite steps to decrease the risks of war and bloodshed in the region. War would have grim consequences for the world economy as well as the usual slaughter of noncombatants that characterizes modern military conflicts. The US should make it clear that there will be no assistance, no arms, and absolutely no American soldiers in any conflict there. The House of Saud is militant but has not been self reliant in military matters. They got the US involved in their regime change adventure in Syria and even their war against a underdeveloped Yemen.… Read more »
Slamfu
Member
Slamfu
8 months 21 days ago
The Saudi’s have been increasing their military spending a lot in recent years I think they are #4 or 5 on the list now actually, meaning they have enough to take on anyone else in the region with conventional weapons. For decades the Saudi’s, despite being a fairly extreme theocracy, has been keeping a low profile with regards to extremism. sort of. When you think about it, AQ had deep connections to them, and ISIS has supposedly been getting support from them, especially in the early years. If the Saudi’s are ready to make a move now, it could get… Read more »
RON BEASLEY, Assistant Editor
Member
8 months 20 days ago

The tribes of the Arabian Peninsula and Persia have been fighting each other since long before Islam. The Sunni/Shi’ite dispute only complicated this.

wpDiscuz