Saudi Arabia has announced severing of diplomatic relations with Iran following Tehran's objection to execution of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.
Axis of Evil: US, Israel and Saudi Arabia
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir made the announcement in a Sunday address aired by al-Arabiya News Channel, adding that Iran's diplomatic mission and related entities had 48 hours to leave the country. The move followed demonstrations held in front of the Saudi embassy in Tehran and its consulate in the northeastern city of Mashhad by angry protesters, censuring the Al Saud family for the killing of the top cleric as part of a crackdown on Shias mostly residing in the kingdom's Eastern Province. Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian was the first Iranian official to react to the severance, stressing that Riyadh “cannot cover” up its “big mistake” by cutting ties with Tehran. He noted that no Saudi diplomats were harmed during the protests held in Tehran and Mashhad and that “Iran is one of the safest countries in the region” where diplomats are carrying out their responsibilities.Saudi Arabia Cuts Ties Amid Iranian Anger Over Cleric’s Execution
Saudi Arabia, ruled by a Sunni-led royal dynasty, is engaged in a tug of war with Shi’ite-led Iran throughout the Middle East. Both sides have used proxy forces to struggle for or maintain influence in places like Yemen, as well as Bahrain, Iraq, and Syria. The execution of Nimr, announced on January 2 by Saudi Arabia, was expected to fuel further outbreaks of proxy violence. Nimr was a central figure in protests by Saudi Arabia's marginalized Shi'ite minority until his arrest in 2012 and later conviction on terrorism charges. His execution drew condemnation from Shi'a across the region. In addition to Nimr, 46 others, including three Shi'ite dissidents and several Al-Qaeda militants, were put to death. In Washington, a U.S. State Department spokesman warned that Nimr's execution could worsen sectarian strife at a time when tensions needed to be reduced.Saudi Arabia cuts ties with Iran, kicks out its diplomats | The Times of Israel
Saudi Arabia “is breaking off diplomatic ties with Iran and requests that all members of the Iranian diplomatic mission leave… within 48 hours,” he told a news conference. Iran’s supreme leader warned Sunday that Saudi Arabia would face “divine revenge” for executing a Shiite cleric as condemnation also poured in from Iraq and protesters took to the streets. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was joined in his condemnation of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr’s death by Iraq’s top Shiite authority, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who called the death sentence an unjust act of aggression. Their comments came as protests in Iran on Sunday spread to Bahrain, Pakistan, Indian Kashmir and Lebanon a day after a mob set fire to the Saudi embassy in Tehran and ransacked it before dozens were arrested. On top of the ongoing wars in Syria and Yemen, Nimr’s execution set the Middle East’s main Shiite countries further apart from their Sunni counterpart in Riyadh.Iran’s leader raps execution of Saudi Shia Cleric - YouTube