News / Middle East

    Saudi Arabia Allies Join Riyadh in Curbing Iran Ties

    Supporters of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr protest against the execution of Shi'ite Muslim cleric Nimr al-Nimr in Saudi Arabia, during a demonstration in Baghdad, Jan. 4, 2016.
    Supporters of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr protest against the execution of Shi'ite Muslim cleric Nimr al-Nimr in Saudi Arabia, during a demonstration in Baghdad, Jan. 4, 2016.
    Chris HannasKen Bredemeier

    Saudi Arabia's allies curbed their diplomatic links with Iran Monday, following Riyadh's decision to sever its relations with Iran after protesters stormed the country's embassy in Tehran.

    Bahrain and Sudan cut their diplomatic ties to Tehran, while the United Arab Emirates downgraded its relations with Iran, limiting the number of Tehran's diplomats in the country and reducing the representation to a charge d'affaires rather than an ambassador. Saudi Arabia also announced that all flights to and from Iran have been cancelled.

    At the White House, spokesman Josh Earnest stressed the the need for Iran and Saudi Arabia to "deescalate" the situation and urged all sides to show restraint.

    The heightened tensions came in the aftermath of Sunni Saudi Arabia's execution Saturday of a leading Shi'ite cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr. After Riyadh announced his execution, along with 46 others, angry Iranian protesters smashed furniture and set fires at the Saudi embassy in Tehran, with demonstrators also attacking the country's consulate in Mashhad. 

    VIDEO: Analysts discuss message Saudi Arabia sent to Iran

    Tensions in Middle East Heat Up as Saudi Arabia, Iran Cut Diplomatic Tiesi
    X
    January 05, 2016 1:54 AM
    Arch-rival Muslim powers Saudi Arabia and Iran have cut diplomatic relations after Riyadh executed a leading dissident Shi’ite cleric over the weekend. Analysts say Saudi Arabia, under pressure from falling oil prices and a rising Iranian challenge, wanted to send a clear message to any who dare challenge the authority of the kingdom. More from VOA's Sharon Behn.

    At least 40 protesters were arrested in the attacks, which Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called "totally unjustifiable." But he also denounced al-Nimr's execution, and about 3,000 demonstrators took to the streets of Tehran Monday in protest of the cleric's killing.

    Sudan said it was cutting Tehran ties because of the "barbaric attacks" on the Saudi embassy in Tehran. The UAE said it was curbing its Iran ties because of Tehran's "continuous interference in the internal affairs of Gulf and Arab states, which has reached unprecedented levels." Somalia denounced the attacks on the Saudi outposts as a "flagrant violation" of international law.

    WATCH: Related video clip

    Saudi Arabia Severs Ties with Irani
    X
    January 04, 2016 2:58 PM
    Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic ties with Iran less than a day after demonstrators in Tehran stormed the Saudi embassy to protest the Saudi execution of a prominent Shi'ite cleric.


    A statement on the state-run BNA news service said Bahrain called on Iranian diplomats to leave the country within 48 hours. Bahraini police fired tear gas and birdshot at protesters demonstrating against al-Nimr's execution.  Saudi Arabia, in announcing its move late Sunday, also gave Iranian diplomats two days to leave.

    Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossein Jaber Ansari said at a Monday morning briefing Iran was arranging for its personnel to return home from their Saudi posts, but that none had yet left.  He also criticized Saudi Arabia for its decision, saying Saudi actions are fueling tensions in the region.

    Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said Sunni-majority Saudi Arabia would not allow Shi'ite dominated Iran to undermine his country's security, or that of the region.

    "The continued attacks on diplomatic missions is a flagrant violation of all international treaties," Jubeir said. "We want to make it very clear that there is no space in the community of nations for a country that condones terrorism, that supports terrorism and that engages in terrorism."

    Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said later the Saudi decision could not distract from its "big mistake" of executing Nimr, who was a prominent critic of Saudi Arabia's ruling royal family.  He was convicted in 2014 of sedition and other charges, and in 2011 was a key leader of Shi'ite protests in eastern Saudi Arabia.

    The mass executions, the most in Saudi Arabia in more than three decades, triggered international outrage and warnings of grave repercussions for the Saudi royal family.

    The U.S. State Department, in a statement, said Washington "will continue to urge leaders across the region to take affirmative steps to calm tensions."  The statement also said President Barack Obama's administration believes "that diplomatic engagement and direct conversations remain essential" to resolving the crisis.

    • Surrounded by policemen, a Muslim cleric addresses a crowd during a demonstration to protest the execution of Saudi Shiite Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, shown in the poster in background, in front of the Saudi embassy in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016.
    • Iranian protesters hold pictures of Shi'ite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr during a demonstration condemning his execution in Saudi Arabia, at Imam Hussein Square, in Tehran, Jan. 4, 2016.
    • Iranian protesters chant slogans during a demonstration condemning the execution of Shi'ite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr in Saudi Arabia, at Imam Hussein Square, in Tehran, Jan. 4, 2016.
    • An Iranian riot policeman stands guard as protesters hold street signs with the name of Shi'ite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr during a demonstration condemning his execution in Saudi Arabia, outside the Saudi Arabian Embassy, in Tehran, January, 3, 2016.
    • Supporters of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr burn fabric painted to resemble the national flags of Israel, the United Kingdom and the U.S. during a demonstration condemning the execution of Shi'ite cleric Nimr al-Nimr in Saudi Arabia, in Baghdad, Jan. 4,
    • Supporters of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr protest against the execution of Shi'ite cleric Nimr al-Nimr in Saudi Arabia, during a rally in Baghdad, Iraq, Jan. 4, 2016.
    • Shi'ite Muslims burn an effigy of Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz during a protest against the execution in Saudi Arabia of cleric Nimr al-Nimr, in front of Saudi Arabia's embassy in New Delhi, India, Jan. 4, 2016.


    Iran threatens 'divine vengeance'

    Earlier Sunday, Iran's supreme leader said Saudi Arabia will face "divine vengeance" for its execution of Nimr.  State television quoted Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as saying, "The unjustly spilled blood of this oppressed martyr will no doubt soon show its effect and divine vengeance will befall Saudi politicians."

    He also said Nimr "neither encouraged people into armed action nor secretly conspired for plots, but the only thing he did was utter public criticism rising from his religious zeal."

    Angry Iranian protesters on Saturday stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran and a consulate in Mashhad, smashing furniture and setting fires at the embassy before being ejected by police.

    At least 40 protesters were arrested. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called the attacks on the diplomatic missions "totally unjustifiable," even as he denounced Riyadh's execution of the 56-year-old Shi'ite cleric.

    Iran's Revolutionary Guard said in a statement Sunday Nimr's death would lead to the "downfall" of Saudi Arabia's monarchy.  The Guard described Nimr's execution as a "medieval act of savagery."

    Iraq's Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani called the execution "an injustice and an aggression."

    Smoke rises as Iranian protesters set fire to the Saudi embassy in Tehran, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016. Protesters upset over the execution of a Shiite cleric in Saudi Arabia set fires to the Saudi embassy in Tehran.
    Smoke rises as Iranian protesters set fire to the Saudi embassy in Tehran, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016. Protesters upset over the execution of a Shiite cleric in Saudi Arabia set fires to the Saudi embassy in Tehran.

    Condemnations, warnings spread

    A top Shi'ite cleric in Lebanon also warned of a backlash to Nimr's execution.  Sheikh Abdul-Amir Kabalan described the execution as "a crime at a human level and will have repercussions in the coming days."

    Protests also erupted in Bahrain, where police used tear gas on the crowds.  Demonstrations also took place in India, as well as the Saudi embassy in London.

    U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was "deeply dismayed" by the execution of Nimr and called for "calm and restraint in reaction" to the killings. 

    Washington warned that Nimr's death would only add to strife between religious sects in the region.

    "We are particularly concerned that the execution of prominent Shia cleric and political activist Nimr al-Nimr risks exacerbating sectarian tensions at a time when they urgently need to be reduced," U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement Saturday.

    Iran and Saudi Arabia have been vying for leadership in the Muslim world since Iran's 1979 revolution, which elevated to power hard-line Shi'ite clerics. The U.S. war in Iraq further inflamed religious and ethnic tensions by leading to a Shi'ite-led government in Baghdad and a crucial shift in the sectarian balance of power in the region.

    After Arab Spring protests erupted in 2011, Saudi Arabia and Iran entered into a fierce proxy war in Syria, where they support opposite sides of the conflict.  The two foes also back opposing military factions in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition has bombed Iran-backed Shi'ite targets for the past nine months.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Altair from: Turkey
    January 05, 2016 4:22 AM
    Much as KSA seems as Sunni, they are Salafhi and Wahhabi as third wing of Islam. ISIS supporter rate is about 90% among KSA youngers and it scares KSA kingdom. Unless muslims dont found new big and joint country like that Ottoman Empire, they will kill each other. Muslims need to be governed by country like that Ottomans.

    by: QUOC TUAN from: Vietnam
    January 05, 2016 12:01 AM
    All we need no is the terrorist dictatorship family regime of Saudi Arabia must be overthrown to leave place for a real democratic one which support all religons and all sects.

    by: williweb from: Phoenix Arizona USA
    January 04, 2016 4:52 PM
    A suicide bomber is just too stupid to figure out how to do a bombing without killing themselves.

    by: Anonymous
    January 04, 2016 3:58 PM
    Is islam a problem in the world? what is wrong with this religion? why are most troubles coming from the Arab and moslem world? Iran is even warning Nigeria to release an islamic leader who defy military knowing nigeria is fighting a war privately sponsored by most of them in the name of spreaqding their religious agenda. I think these brands of islam should should example of good and godliness? Iran man said to be holiest of all Ayatollah pressure nigeria, curses saudi arabia will he God again on prigrimmage? Every one should abandon this hypocrasy.

    by: Anonymous
    January 04, 2016 2:41 PM
    It's amazing to me that Muslim fundamentalists believe being dead is more important than being alive and they certainly hate the rest of the world and everyone in it, which begs the question as to why they are all still here? I for one would be pleased if they'd all just kill each other to the last and leave the rest of us in peace. I don't give a rats about Muslims or anything they represent. ISIS are nothing more than cowardly criminals hiding behind women, children, infirmed and elderly hostages and I wish the people of the free world would spend less time trying to understand and accommodate their warped and malignant point of view and just wipe them out once and for all.

    by: Anonymous
    January 04, 2016 11:37 AM
    Erdogan of Turkey talked the inexperienced Saudis into this.
    Previous traps by Turks for Saudi Arabia:
    1- Start a war in Yemen
    2- Fund and support ISIS and AQ
    Latest Turkish trap for Saudis:
    3- Execute Shia clerics.
    Outcomes for Turkey:
    Phase 1: Deprive Saudi Arabia financially by the war in Yemen
    Phase 2: Deprive Saudi Arabia politically by having Saudi Arabia spend its political coupons in support of ISIS and AQ
    Phase3: Fracture and destroy Saudi Arabia by starting sectarian civil war, by things like executing prominent Shia figures and clerics.
    This will enable Turkey to claim leadership of the Sunni Muslims (Egypt is already taken care of).

    by: Anonymous
    January 04, 2016 10:53 AM
    Sudan joined Saudi Wahhabis. How ironic.

    by: Godwin from: Nigeria
    January 04, 2016 10:46 AM
    Saudi Arabia’s execution of Nimr described by Iran as a “medieval act of savagery”. Coming from Iran, this is, to say the least, surprising. The surprise element here’s that Iran’s even more neck-deep in extra-judicial/arbitrary conviction/execution of victims on minor issues like dissent, a question why state authority might or might not do a thing, any question of the right of the Ayatollah to inhibit/restrict the rights of citizens, any question at all that the supreme leader, the cabinet and the pseudo-presidency terms divergent view’s regarded not just as enemy of the state but enemy of God, and the resultant jungle judgment’s sundry execution.

    What’s the right of Tehran to condemn what Riyadh’s done when all it did was payback Iran with its own coin? Swearing divine punishment on Riyadh as if God belonged to him, does he know/own God? The whole world wants to be notified when that happens so that we can be sure that all these evils carried out in Islamic countries in the name of God truly have the command of God. And how God reacts in this case will tell between conflicting shia and sunni islam the one the god of the muslims has chosen.

    by: anynmous from: usa
    January 04, 2016 6:18 AM
    the war between two faction Shia and Sunni is about to start. Again it is not the United state business to involve unless Obama find a pretext to involve. since we love the Saudi kingdom . We love Sunni. they increase the oil price and create the higher inflation in the history . they help isis and slaughter Christian . 9/11. and other terrorist organization. we still love the Saudi kingdom. . we should not involve . we should not put our soldiers in the middle of Shia and Sunni.

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