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Executions fuel Saudi-Iran regional rivalry

Middle East

Executions fuel Saudi-Iran regional rivalry

Within hours of Iran’s threat of dire consequences for Saudi Arabia after it executed 47 “terrorists”, including a dissident Shia cleric, the Gulf monarchy’s embassy in Tehran was ablaze.

Dozens of hardliners entered the empty building in Iran’s capital overnight and set it alight before the authorities regained control and extinguished the blaze.

The dangerous turn of events was sparked by widespread Shia fury after Saudi Arabia, the leader of the Sunni muslim world, executed Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a prominent Shia cleric from the most restive town in the oil-rich eastern province.

Saudi Arabia summoned Iran’s ambassador in Riyadh to deliver a “strongly worded” letter against Iran’s commentary on the executions while reminding Tehran of its responsibility to protect the Saudi embassy.

Sheikh Nimr was one of four Shia activists executed on Saturday on various “terrorist” charges relating to protests among the minority Shia community in the kingdom’s eastern province, where the authorities have cracked down on demonstrations in the wake of the 2011 Arab spring revolts.

The mass execution also included 43 Sunni jihadis for their role in terrorist attacks during the failed militant insurgency against the ruling al-Saud family a decade ago.

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