Who: Saudi Arabia
What: Severed diplomatic ties with Iran
When: 3 January 2016
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir on 3 January 2016 announced that his country has broken off diplomatic ties with Iran. The announcement was made amid a row over the Saudi execution of a prominent Shia Muslim cleric.
Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr and 46 others were executed by Saudi Arabia on 2 January 2016 after being convicted of terror related offences. This was the largest execution carried out by Saudi Arabia in three and a half decades.
The announcement was made after demonstrators stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran and set it on fire resulting into al-Jubeir asking all Iranian diplomats to leave Saudi Arabia within 48 hours. Saudi Arabia also recalled its diplomats from Tehran.
Earlier, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that the Sunni Muslim kingdom would face revenge for the execution.
The execution of Nimr al-Nimr also has come in for criticism from many Shia-dominated nations including Bahrain and Pakistan.
Iran-Saudi Arabia relations
The relationship between Iran and Saudi Arabia has never been so easy because of the composition of population. Iran is a Shia-dominated nation and Saudi Arabia is a Sunni-dominated nation. Adding to this, the geo-political and strategic compulsions are driving both the nations to become a major power in the West Asia region in recent few decades.
Geo-political issues that have kept the bilateral relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia strained in recent few decades are:
• The interpretations of Islam
• Aspirations for leadership of the Islamic world
• Oil export policy
• Relations with the US and the West
• Iran’s nuclear programme
• Deaths of Iranians at the Hajj pilgrimage in 1987 and again in 2015