Iran and Saudi Arabia kick off 2016 with a severe diplomatic spat. Could the execution of Nimr al-Nimr fuel broader sectarian tensions?
From U.N. headquarters in New York, this is your “World in 2:00.” I’m your host Luke Vargas for Talk Media News.
It’s safe to say the final days of 2015 were relatively slow news days, but to kick off 2016, Saudi Arabia and Iran have thrown us a curveball, igniting a diplomatic spat the likes of which hasn’t been seen in decades.
It started on Saturday. Saudi Arabia executed 47 people on terrorism charges. Among them was a prominent Shia cleric, Sheikh Nimr Baqr al-Nimr.
Nimr was a thorn for Saudi Arabia, having been a strong backer of anti-government protests by the country’s Shia minority, but was not alleged to have carried out any violence.
The regional implications of the execution rapidly became apparent.
Iran, the Arab world’s most powerful Shia nation, took up Nimr’s cause.
Ayatollah Khamenei called him a martyr and pledged “divine revenge” against Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi embassy in Tehran was ransacked and set ablaze on Saturday night, and by Sunday, Saudi Arabia severed all diplomatic ties with Iran.
Two more countries – Bahrain and Sudan – have also joined in to cut ties with Iran. The United Arab Emirates downgraded relations to focus on commercial affairs.
With sectarian tensions heating up, the consequences could be profound.
Oil prices are on the rise amid production uncertainty.
Diplomatic efforts in Syria, which were finally looking somewhat encouraging, could falter.
Sunni shrines were attacked in Baghdad on Monday, apparent retaliation for Saudi actions.
And in Yemen, where both Saudi and Iranian military interests are locked in battle, a conflict that’s already left 82% of the population requiring humanitarian assistance could drag on.
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