Monday, January 4, 2016 12:05 am
The execution by Saudi Arabia of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a Shiite respected leader and 46 others on Saturday threatens to explode into a major crisis in the muslim world, setting Shiites against Sunnis.
In the latest blow out, Saudi Arabia announced Sunday that it has broken off diplomatic ties with Iran after protesters ransacked its embassy in Tehran to protest the execution of Al-Nimr.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir made the announcement at a news conference in Riyadh, and said Iranian diplomats had 48 hours to leave the kingdom.
The diplomatic fallout come as Iran’s supreme leader said Saudi Arabia would face “divine revenge” for executing Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, and as Western nations voiced concern about escalating sectarian tensions between Sunnis and Shiite Muslims.
Saudi Arabia “is breaking off diplomatic ties with Iran and requests that all members of the Iranian diplomatic mission leave… within 48 hours,” Jubeir said.
“Iran’s history is full of negative interference and hostility in Arab issues, and it is always accompanied by destruction,” he said, and accused Tehran of seeking to “destabilise” the region.
On Saturday, a mob attacked the Saudi embassy in Tehran and a consulate in second city Mashhad amid protests at Nimr’s execution.
Jubeir said Saudi authorities had asked their Iranian counterparts to ensure security at the embassy but they did not cooperate and failed to protect it.
Nimr, 56, was a force behind 2011 anti-government protests in oil-rich eastern Saudi Arabia, where Shiites have complained of marginalisation.
He was put to death along with 46 other people, Shiite activists and convicted Sunni militants who the Saudi interior ministry says were involved in Al-Qaeda attacks that killed dozens in 2003 and 2004.
Some were beheaded and others were shot by firing squad.
Iran has said it arrested 44 people over the embassy attacks, and President Hassan Rouhani said the demonstrators were “radicals” and the assaults “totally unjustifiable”.
View galleryPakistani Shiite Muslim women shout slogans during …
Pakistani Shiite Muslim women shout slogans during a protest in Lahore on January 3, 2016, against t …
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei condemned Nimr’s execution, saying “God will not forgive” Saudi Arabia for putting him to death.
“It will haunt the politicians of this regime,” he said.
Relations between Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia and Shiite-ruled Iran have been strained for decades, with Riyadh frequently accusing Tehran of interfering in Arab affairs.
Both countries have also been divided over the nearly five-year war in Syria, where Iran is backing the regime and in Yemen where a Saudi-led coalition is battling Iran-backed rebels.
– ‘The gates of hell’ –
View galleryIranian protesters on January 2, 2016 set fire to the …
Iranian protesters on January 2, 2016 set fire to the Saudi Embassy in Tehran during a demonstration …
Khamenei was joined in his condemnation of Nimr’s execution by Iraq’s top Shiite authority, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who called the death sentence “an unjust act of aggression”.
Their comments, echoed by other regional religious and political leaders, came as protests in Iran on Sunday spread to Bahrain, Pakistan, Indian Kashmir and Lebanon.
The head of Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah movement allied to Iran, Hassan Nasrallah, accused Riyadh of seeking to spark a “conflict between Sunni and Shiite” Muslims.