Stocking the fire of sectarianism: Iran and Saudia should mend their strenuous ties
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2016-01-06 15:51:12

Stocking the fire of sectarianism: Iran and Saudia should mend their strenuous ties

S

 

Relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran have put the entire of Middle East as well as Pakistan in a conundrum. Tensions have flared to an all time high following the execution of prominent Shia Saudi cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr accused of terrorism on Saturday and hours later an Iranian mob set fire to the Saudi embassy in Tehran. In response Saudi Arabia broke off diplomatic relations and called its diplomats back home, giving Iranian diplomats two days to leave. The timing of this conflict could not be more crucial for the region, when just a month ago there was agreement over holding talks to end the Yemen crisis and Syria was supposed to follow suit. The situation is also going to become a major headache for Pakistan, where we will be pressured to pick a side and join the fray. Most crucially, SA’s move to execute him despite Iran’s warnings that the cleric’s execution would cost it dearly led to the immediate worsening of the already strained relations between the Sunni monarchy and predominantly Shiite Iran, who support opposing forces in current regional conflicts. Not only was the execution followed by vows of vengeance from many including Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and its Shia allies, including the leader of the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, who deemed the killing ‘a message of blood’, but led to protesters ransacking the Saudi embassy in Tehran late on Saturday. SA responded to this opposition by severing its diplomatic ties with Iran and was followed by Sudan, UAE and most significantly Bahrain. Being a Shia majority population ruled by a Sunni minority, this act of Bahrain portends sectarian tensions that are becoming increasingly apparent. Despite Saudi Arabia’s claims of al-Nimr being involved in inciting violent opposition, the overwhelming evidence and opinion suggests quite the opposite, that he was involved in peaceful resistance against the monarchy’s mistreatment of the Shia minority, and had garnered support from the Shiite youth frustrated with the previous leaders’ inability to gain equal rights for their community. The enormity of the uproar resulting from his execution lends further credence to the argument that the wrong man has been executed for all the wrong reasons. Moreover, considering the Saudi justice system’s notoriety for its consistent inability to meet the criteria for fair judicial proceedings, it is not hard to believe that a similar unjust treatment was meted out to al-Nimr and the others executed with him. What appears more likely is that the cleric became a pawn for SA, which by lumping him with members of al Qaeda is attempting to placate local Sunnis by a clear move against the Shias, and also show itself as acting against al Qaeda that is openly attempting to overthrow the Saudi rule. Predictably, SA has failed to realise the difficulties its move will create, not only inciting sectarian conflicts locally but in the region, where instead what is needed desperately is some semblance of unity transcending sects within the region in dealing with the increasing terrorism.

 

 

pk.shafaqna.com

 

 

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