Saudi Arabia executed a prominent Shi’ite Muslim cleric and dozens of al Qaeda members on Saturday, signalling that it would not tolerate attacks, whether by Sunni jihadists or minority Shi’ites, and stirring sectarian anger across the region.
Protesters in Iran, angered by the execution by Saudi Arabia of a prominent Shiite cleric, broke into the Saudi embassy in Tehran early Sunday, setting fires and throwing papers from the roof, Iranian media reported.
The semiofficial ISNA news agency said the country’s top police official, Gen. Hossein Sajedinia, rushed to the scene and police worked to disperse the crowd outraged by the execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.
Saudi Arabia cut off diplomatic relations with Iran on Sunday, giving its diplomats 48 hours to vacate their embassy, as anger spread across the Shiite Muslim world following the kingdom’s execution of prominent Shiite cleric Nemer al-Nemer.
Crowds of incensed Shiites demonstrated in cities from Tehran to Beirut, condemning the execution and calling for the downfall of the Saudi government. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared that Saudi Arabia would face divine retribution for Mr. al-Nemer’s death.
The displays raised alarm in western capitals about a new year of growing sectarian tensions and severed diplomacy in a region already brimming with conflict.
What has the Saudis panicky enough to risk the certain backlash for executing a prominent Shi’ite cleric? What has Iran feeling frisky enough to start invading embassies again?
For the answer to both questions, let’s turn to the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page:
The White House’s media allies are blaming all of this on Iranian “hard-liners” who are supposedly trying to undermine President Rouhani for having negotiated the nuclear deal. Memo to these amateur Tehranologists: The hard-liners run Iran.
Mr. Rouhani was only able to complete the nuclear deal because Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guard decided the terms were in their interests. They get serious sanctions lifted and an immediate financial windfall, while retaining the nuclear infrastructure they can fire up when the accord expires after a decade, if they don’t find an excuse to do so sooner.
From his first days in office Mr. Obama begged Iran to negotiate, making concession after concession until even the Ayatollah had to accept. It’s no surprise Iran has concluded that it can now press its military ambitions with impunity.
The nuclear deal — which Iran wouldn’t trouble itself to actually sign — is still being heralded as Obama’s greatest foreign policy achievement, and I suppose maybe it is.
Oh Dear. Reports that Gulf States are considering closing their airspace to all Iranian planes.
— Summer Said (@summer_said) January 3, 2016