One day after Saudi Arabia’s embassy was set on fire in Tehran by protesters, Saudi ally Bahrain has cut ties with Iran and given Iranian diplomats 48 hours to leave the country. It’s the latest development in a rift that deepened this weekend, after Saudi Arabia executed a leading Shiite cleric.
Announcing the move, Bahrain’s state news agency says it’s responding to “sinful cowardly attacks” on Saudi Arabia’s embassy and a consulate in Iran, saying that the situation “confirms a determination to spread devastation and destruction.”
Bahrain took action one day after Saudi Arabia officially severed diplomatic ties with Iran.
Update at 8:10 a.m. ET: Sudan Follows Suit
In the latest sign of how things have changed, Iran’s former ally Sudan cut diplomatic ties with the country and expelled Tehran’s ambassador Monday, citing the attack on Saudi Arabia’s embassy. The move comes months after Sudan joined Saudi Arabia’s coalition fighting Iran-backed rebels in Yemen.
A fragile truce in the Yemen conflict was officially declared dead on Saturday, as the Saudi-led coalition announced that the cease-fire — which both sides had repeatedly violated — was over.
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On Monday, the United Arab Emirates announced that it will “downgrade the level of its diplomatic representation” in Iran, recalling its ambassador from Tehran. The step is seen as stopping short of a full severing of ties. Like Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, the UAE is Sunni-ruled.
The sectarian conflict gained new intensity Saturday, after Saudi Arabia executed prominent Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr, a critic of the Sunni monarchy.
The move was immediately condemned by Iran, which has also been supporting Shiite fighters who are clashing with a Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.
After the execution, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hossein Jaberi Ansari, said Saudi Arabia will “pay dearly” for its actions. Protesters in Tehran then ransacked and firebombed the Saudi embassy — and on Sunday, Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties.
Calling the latest events “a dangerous shift,” NPR’s Deb Amos describes the broader picture:
“As a more toxic sectarian confrontation engulfs the region, the losers are likely to be Syria and Yemen. Most regional analysts say the solution to these devastating proxy wars can be resolved only when there is some accommodation between Riyadh and Tehran.”