Following the execution of a Shia cleric and over 40 others by the Saudi government and the wrecking of the Saudi embassy in Tehran by protesters in response, Saudi Arabia has severed diplomatic ties with Iran:
Saudi Arabia broke off diplomatic ties with Iran after protesters ransacked its embassy in Tehran to protest the execution of a Shiite cleric whose killing has sparked fury.
The U.S. very mildly reproved the Saudis for their slew of executions, including the killing of the regime critic Nimr al-Nimr, but the Saudi government reportedly “doesn’t care” if it has upset Washington with its actions. That’s no surprise, but it shows how fruitless the administration’s attempts at “reassuring” and indulging the Saudis with over nine months of support for the war on Yemen have been. The U.S. has spent most of the last year enabling a disastrous war to placate Riyadh and its allies, but our reckless client governments are unsurprisingly never satisfied no matter how much the U.S. supports them.
The execution of the cleric and the war on Yemen are both expressions of the intensely sectarian policies of the Saudi government. Marc Lynch noticed several other things they have in common:
Saudi execution of Nimr mirrors its Yemen war: reckless, poorly conceived, counterproductive and forcing everyone else to pay grisly price.
— Marc Lynch (@abuaardvark) January 2, 2016
The sudden deterioration in relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia is very bad news for several other countries the region, chief among them Syria and Yemen. There has obviously been very little diplomatic progress on Syria, but there was a chance for making some this year that now appears to be ruined. Because the Saudis have wrongly portrayed their war on Yemen as a fight against Iranian influence, they are now likely to be even more determined to continue their costly and failing campaign, and they will keep inflicting punishment on Yemen with U.S. help and thus further stoke sectarian hatreds across the region and inside their own country. The Yemen peace talks that were postponed until this month now look even less likely to lead to a halt in the fighting.
The current Saudi leadership is proving itself to be both irresponsible and incompetent, and the U.S. is foolish to continue supporting it in its reckless behavior.