Sectarian State Feud

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Protest against execution of Shia cleric Nimr-al-Nimr
Protest against execution of Shia cleric Nimr-al-Nimr

The execution of Shia cleric Nimr-al-Nimr by Saudi Government over sedition charges has once again destabilised the entire West Asian region. Although the immediate reaction of Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was ‘Saudi Arabia will face divine revenge,’ the highly provoked Iranians have not, expectedly, waited for the God to come and take revenge. They set ablaze Kingdom’s embassy in Tehran and ransacked Saudi consulate in Mashhad. This retaliation move from Iranian side ended up in Saudi and its Sunni allies like Bahrain, UAE and Sudan cutting all bilateral ties and severing diplomatic relations with Iran.

At this point, taking the strategic rivalry between both the nations into the account, there are many who think that Saudi’s extreme move to eliminate a dissent was not out of mere zero tolerance towards terrorism. But it was an outcome of escalating tension between Saudi and Iran which started over the years due to multiple political, sectarian, ideological differences. “It was Saudi’s anger towards Iran which is reflected on execution of Nimr,” says AK Pasha, Professor, Centre for West Asian Studies, JNU.

Saudi, through the ages, had tried to express their resentment towards Iran through number of ways. Kingdom encouraged Saddam to invade Iran. According to WikiLeaks, Former King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia had written to US to cut off the head of the snake・by launching a military attack on nuclear programme of Iran. So, the recent agreement on nuclear deal between Iran and US must had provoked them at most,・says AK Pasha.

For execution of Sheikh Al- Nimr, the charges against him were instigation of sedition, participation in attack against government buildings, and carrying arms in which many were allegedly proved baseless. Earlier, his arrest was for urging oil-rich Qatif, Eastern provinces of the Kingdom, which is predominantly populated by Shiites to separate from Saudi. “Since the area is oil-rich, Saudi wanted it to be with them, while Shiite people inhabiting there were unhappy due the discriminations they faced from Saudi government,” said AK Pasha.though he had spoke up for Shia minority in the kingdom, there was not any solid evidence against him that shows he had took part in any terror act till this time. His stands and speeches for the marginalised shia minorities in Saudi during Jasmine Revolution were the core reasons to make him irreverent in the eyes of Saudi kings.