Allies follow Saudi Arabia in cutting ties with Iran amid escalating tensions

Sudan and the tiny island kingdom of Bahrain said they would sever ties with Iran, as Saudi Arabia did late Sunday.

By: AP | Dubai | Updated: January 5, 2016 1:01 pm
Saudi Arabia, Iran, Saudi Iran relations, Saudi Iran diplomatic ties, Saudi Iran unrest, Nimr al Nimr, Saudi Shiite cleric An Iranian woman holds up a poster showing Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a prominent opposition Saudi Shiite cleric who was executed last week by Saudi Arabia, in Tehran, Iran, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016. Allies of Saudi Arabia followed the kingdom’s lead and began scaling back diplomatic ties to Iran on Monday after the ransacking of Saudi diplomatic missions in the Islamic Republic, violence sparked by the Saudi execution of al-Nimr. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Allies of Saudi Arabia followed the kingdom’s lead Monday and scaled back diplomatic ties to Iran after the ransacking of Saudi diplomatic missions in the Islamic Republic, violence sparked by the Saudi execution of a prominent Shiite cleric.

Sudan and the tiny island kingdom of Bahrain said they would sever ties with Iran, as Saudi Arabia did late Sunday. Within hours, the United Arab Emirates announced it would downgrade ties to Tehran to the level of the charge d’affaires, while other nations issued statements criticizing Iran.

READ: Turkey warns Saudi-Iran tensions will hurt ‘powder keg’ region

The concerted campaign by Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia highlights the aggressive stance King Salman and his son, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, have adopted in confronting Iran, a longtime regional rival.


“What we have seen during the last 24 hours is unprecedented … It shows you Saudi Arabia has had enough of Iran and wants to send a message,” said Abdulkhaleq Abdullah, a political science professor at Emirates University. “This is the Saudis saying: ‘There is no limit to how far we will go.'”

READ: A look at the troubled relations between Saudi Arabia, Iran

The standoff began Saturday, when Saudi Arabia executed Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr and 46 others convicted of terror charges — the largest mass execution carried out by the kingdom since 1980.

Al-Nimr, a central figure in the Arab Spring-inspired protests by Saudi Arabia’s Shiite minority, long denied advocating violence. News of his execution has sparked Shiite protests from Bahrain to Pakistan.

In Iran, protesters attacked the Saudi Embassy in Tehran and its consulate in Mashhad. Late Sunday, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir announced the kingdom would sever its relations with Iran over the assaults, giving Iranian diplomatic personnel 48 hours to leave his country.

ALSO READ: Sheikh Nimr and Saudi-Iran tussle

On Monday, Saudi Arabia’s civil aviation authority suspended all flights to and from Iran, saying the move was based on the kingdom’s cutting of diplomatic ties.

Iran expressed “regret” over the attacks on the diplomatic missions in a letter to the United Nations on Monday and vowed to arrest those responsible. In the letter, obtained by The Associated Press, Iran’s U.N. envoy Gholamali Khoshroo said more than 40 protesters have been arrested and that authorities are searching for other suspects.

In response to a Saudi letter, the U.N. Security Council late Monday strongly condemned the attacks by Iranian protesters on Saudi diplomatic posts. The council statement, agreed to after hours of negotiations, made no mention of the Saudi executions or the rupture in Saudi-Iranian relations.

Saudi Arabia and Iran have long vied for influence in the Middle East. Their rivalry deepened following the toppling of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and the chaos of the Arab Spring, which gave rise to proxy wars in Syria and Yemen.

An early battleground was Bahrain, where the Shiite majority staged mass protests in 2011 demanding political reforms from the Sunni monarchy. Saudi Arabia and the Emirates sent in troops to help quash the revolt, viewing it as an Iranian bid to expand its influence.

Bahraini officials since have accused Iran of training militants and attempting to smuggle arms into the country, which hosts the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet. In October, Bahrain ordered the acting Iranian charge d’affaires to leave within 72 hours and recalled its own ambassador after alleging that Iran sponsored “subversion” and “terrorism” and funneled arms to militants.

Sudan, which has been looking to Saudi Arabia for aid since the secession of oil-rich South Sudan in 2011, on Monday announced an “immediate severing of ties” over the diplomatic mission attacks. Sudan once was closer to Iran, but in recent years has tilted toward Saudi Arabia, and has contributed forces to the Saudi-led coalition battling Shiite rebels in Yemen.

The UAE, a country of seven emirates, has a long trading history with Iran and is home to many ethnic Iranians. It said it would reduce the number of diplomats in Iran and recall its ambassador “in the light of Iran’s continuous interference in the internal affairs of Gulf and Arab states, which has reached unprecedented levels.”

Saudi Arabia had previously severed ties with Iran from 1988 to 1991 over rioting during the hajj in 1987 and Iran’s attacks on shipping in the Persian Gulf. That diplomatic freeze saw Iran halt pilgrims from attending the hajj in Saudi Arabia, something required of all able Muslims once in their lives.

Iranian lawmaker Mohammad Ali Esfanani, spokesman of the Judicial and Legal Committee, said security issues and the fact that Iranian pilgrims wouldn’t have consular protection inside the kingdom made halting the pilgrimage for Iranians likely, according to the semi-official ISNA news agency.

World powers have sought to calm the tensions. On Monday, Germany called on both sides to mend ties, while Russian state news agency RIA Novosti quoted an unnamed senior diplomat as saying Moscow is ready to act as a mediator.

The U.N. envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, was en route to Riyadh on Monday with plans to later visit Tehran. Iran, a staunch supporter of embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad, and Saudi Arabia, a key backer of the opposition, have participated in three rounds of international talks aimed at ending the conflict. De Mistura has set a Jan. 25 target date for a fourth round of talks.

The White House urged Saudi Arabia and Iran to not let their dispute derail efforts to end the Syrian civil war.

“Hopefully they will continue to engage,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. “It is so clearly in the interests of both countries to advance a political solution to the situation inside of Syria.”

Saudi Arabia’s U.N. Ambassador Abdallah al-Moualimi said late Monday tha tSaudi Arabia will attend the Jan. 25 talks in Geneva on Syria. Iran has not said whether it will attend.

Meanwhile, al-Nimr’s family is holding three days of mourning at a mosque in al-Awamiya village in the kingdom’s al-Qatif region in predominantly Shiite eastern Saudi Arabia. Authorities have already buried the sheikh’s body in an undisclosed cemetery, his family said.

Early Monday, the state-run Saudi Press Agency said a shooting targeting security forces in the village killed a man and wounded a child. It offered no motive for the attack, nor for another it said saw a mob beat and briefly kidnap a man who was driving through the area.

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  1. मनीष
    Jan 5, 2016 at 6:56 am
    One branch of Islam, either Sunni or Shia, is not following the Islamic teachings and must be eliminated.
    1. मनीष
      Jan 5, 2016 at 7:21 pm
      One branch of Islam, either Sunni or Shia, is not following the Islamic teachings and must be eliminated. I support Shia community, they are less radicalized. They even take biting from Sunnies without fighting back.
      1. मनीष
        Jan 7, 2016 at 9:31 pm
        Why are the Shia Muslims cowards? They have been beaten and killed by Sunnies for centuries.
        1. A
          Ali Hund
          Jan 6, 2016 at 6:20 pm
          Islam is a deadly disease. Its followers need to use brain and not believe in the hate propaa taught by Mullahs. Find a different religion or become an atheist.
          1. R
            Jan 5, 2016 at 6:26 am
            Sunni pigs uniting against Shia pigs. The quicker these pedophile worshipers kill each other, the better it will be for humanity.
            1. I
              Jan 5, 2016 at 10:19 am
              rajesh .. mind ur language .. u keep repeating hate comments .. just bcoz of fools like u .. i dont want to comments against any community ... i can use the words but that is the difference .. so dont play with patience .. i am submitting u ur comments again to cyber crime ..
              1. J
                Jan 5, 2016 at 7:32 pm
                Terrorist group ISIS, Saudi, Kuwait, Bahrain, UAE, Qatar and Sudan are controlled by Wahabis. Wahabis are not like Sunnis found in other countries in the world. Wahabism is about 100 year old, only. Most terrorists are followers of Wahabi cult, and are supported by funds from these countries. Any country which supports any of the above Wahabi countries is supporting terrorists. Indian government, UN, US and EU must act against these supporters of terrorists.
                1. K
                  kulaputra kulaputra
                  Jan 5, 2016 at 7:09 am
                  What a mess this region has always been. Things were normal under British dictatorships. May be they can outsource ruling to the UK again ?
                  1. M
                    Me Marathi
                    Jan 5, 2016 at 11:09 am
                    No Comments .....Only chemotherapy !!
                    1. M
                      Me Marathi
                      Jan 5, 2016 at 11:09 am
                      No Comments...Only Chemotherapy !!
                      1. M
                        Me Marathi
                        Jan 5, 2016 at 7:42 am
                        They are cancer to the world. High time to do chemotherapy and vaporise them.
                        1. H
                          Jan 5, 2016 at 3:46 pm
                          Escalation of conflict are good for the world for developments.
                          1. S
                            Jan 5, 2016 at 4:00 pm
                            The demise of the monarchy in Saudi Arabia - is that a possibility ?
                            1. R
                              Jan 5, 2016 at 11:36 am
                              Human will find differences to hit each other, be it any community. Its like traders and industrialists competing with each other. Even in a homogeneous community differences will spark up. So if two clans of the same religion have different ideologies, its no surprise. Only wise council and level thinking will solve issues. We are all living in gl houses, lets not throw stones at any community; instead pray for for peaceful resolution.
                              1. C
                                Jan 5, 2016 at 1:19 pm
                                Now the real "Bhasmasura Hastam" started these guys are brainwashed by their religion even though it was started by one man they have so many sects and they fight between themselves. That is what happens when one man dictatorial religions are practiced with out using our own gray matter and not ready to accept any suggestions,teachings of people with wisdom and enlightenment except blindly following and even at some mis interpretations by the elders of the group for their own selfish reasons. Jaihind
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