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Saudi Arabia, Bahrain Sever Ties With Iran

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Saudi Arabia and Bahrain cut diplomatic ties (NYT) with Iran in the regional fallout triggered by the Saudi execution of Nimr al-Nimr, a prominent Shia cleric. Nimr was one of forty-seven prisoners executed (BBC) across the country on Saturday. The severing of ties comes after protesters stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran on Saturday following the execution (WSJ). Saudi Arabia has given Iranian diplomats forty-eight hours to leave the kingdom. Sudan expelled the Iranian ambassador on Monday, and the United Arab Emirates recalled its ambassador to Tehran.

“Arab officials and several Middle East analysts said a further escalation between Saudi Arabia and Iran would place the U.S. in an even trickier diplomatic bind. The U.S. is Saudi Arabia’s most important arms supplier and military ally, and would be expected to back the Saudi monarchy if the conflict were to escalate. At the same time, Mr. Obama has made the nuclear agreement with Iran, and potentially improved ties, his most important foreign policy initiative,” writes Jay Solomon for the Wall Street Journal.

“More worryingly, perhaps, for Syrian civilians and refugees and EU countries, the furore over Nimr’s death could sabotage western attempts to induce Iran and Saudi Arabia to collaborate in bringing an end to Syria’s civil war. Iranian spokesmen were quick to draw a link between executions of alleged terrorists and alleged Saudi support for Salafist Sunni terror groups in Syria,” writes Simon Tisdall for the Guardian.

“The rupture between Saudi Arabia and Iran came at a delicate moment in the fledgling diplomatic effort to launch peace talks later this month between the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad and opposition representatives. The U.N. mediator for the Syrian conflict, Staffan de Mistura, was due to hold talks in Riyadh on Monday to pave the way for the negotiations in Geneva. But Western diplomats are concerned the rift between Saudi Arabia and Iran could poison the atmosphere and wreck the discussions before they even begin” writes Dan de Luce for Foreign Policy.