Saudi Arabia and allies loosen ties with Iran following Saudi execution of...

Saudi Arabia and allies loosen ties with Iran following Saudi execution of Shiite cleric

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This article has been updated 3:40 PM Jan. 4, 2015.

WASHINGTON (Talk Media News) – Three of Saudi Arabia’s allies severed or downgraded diplomatic relations with Iran after the Saudi embassy in Tehran was attacked by protesters on Saturday following the execution of an outspoken Shiite cleric by the predominately Sunni nation.

Bahrain and Sudan both severed relations with Iran, while the United Arab Emirates downgraded its diplomatic envoy. On Sunday, Saudi Arabia fully severed ties and gave Iran’s diplomats 48 hours to leave the country.

The Shiite cleric, Nimr al-Nimr, was executed Saturday along with several dozen others accused of being tied to terrorism. Some of the 47 executed took part in anti-government protests and others were convicted members of al-Qaeda, The Guardian reported.

Shia Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia are adversaries in the region, both vying to be the Middle East’s super power.

The two nations are engaged in proxy wars in Yemen and Syria. In Yemen, Saudi Arabia supports the government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. In Syria, Saudi Arabia supports rebels fighting to oust the government of President Bashar al-Assad, whom Iran is supporting via Lebanese Hezbollah fighters.

Saudi Arabia is a close ally of the United States, while Iran considers the U.S. an enemy.

The White House said Monday that President Barack Obama has not spoken with the leaders of either nation, but encouraged restraint on both sides.

The increased Saudi-Iran tension will likely complicate complicate the Iranian nuclear deal, the Syrian civil war and the ongoing global oil market slouch.

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