Iranian mob storms Saudi embassy in Tehran after execution of prominent shia cleric
An angry mob stormed the Saudi Arabian embassy in Tehran following the execution of a popular shia cleric, ransacking and burning parts of the facility.
Nimr al-Nimr was one of 47 people executed by the Saudi government Saturday. He was an outspoken critic of the Saudi royal family and a key figure in the anti-government protests that broke out in 2011.
The Iranian government, Saudi Arabia’s rival in the region, had earlier slammed the execution.
“The execution of a personality such as Sheikh Nimr who had no means other than speech to pursue his political and religious objectives only shows the depth of imprudence and irresponsibility," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari was quoted as saying in state-run Press TV.
The U.S. State Department also weighed in on the executions Saturday afternoon.
“We reaffirm our calls on the government of Saudi Arabia to respect and protect human rights, and to ensure fair and transparent judicial proceedings in all cases,” State spokesman John Kirby said in a written statement. “The United States also urges the government of Saudi Arabia to permit peaceful expression of dissent and to work together with all community leaders to defuse tensions in the wake of these executions.
“We are particularly concerned that the execution of prominent Shia cleric and political activist Nimr al-Nimr risks exacerbating sectarian tensions at a time when they urgently need to be reduced,” he added. “In this context, we reiterate the need for leaders throughout the region to redouble efforts aimed at de-escalating regional tensions.”
The government had accused Sheikh Nimr of "seeking 'foreign meddling' in Saudi Arabia, 'disobeying' its rulers and taking up arms against the security forces." That "foreign meddling" refers to Iran, where Sheikh Nimr studied for many years. Was he an agent of the Iranian government? It's hard to believe otherwise.
But be became a liberal cause celebre, as several petitions from western NGO's were sent to the Saudi government pleading for a stay. Despite claims from his western supporters, Sheikh Nimr was no democrat, nor was he liberal. He was a typical Muslim cleric who thought the country should be governed by sharia law. At one point, he even advocated that the majority Shiite region of eastern Saudi Arabia secede from Riyadh. Needless to say, this did not endear him to Saudi authorities.
With both Iran and Saudi Arabia engaged militarily elsewhere in the region, war is not likely. But shias are a large minority in several countries in the region and protests can be expected for the near future.