ALLIES of Saudi Arabia have joined diplomatic action against Iran after violence sparked by the Saudi execution of a prominent opposition Shiite cleric.
Sudan and the island kingdom of Bahrain said they would sever ties with Iran, as Saudi Arabia did on Sunday.
Within hours, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced that it, too, would downgrade ties to Tehran to the level of the charge d’affaires and would focus only on economic issues. Somalia also issued a statement criticising Iran.
The moves come after the Saudi embassy in Tehran was attacked and ransacked in the wake of the execution on Saturday of Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr and 46 others convicted of terror charges – the largest mass execution carried out by Saudi Arabia since 1980.
Shiite protesters took to the streets from Bahrain to Pakistan, while Arab allies of Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia lined up behind the kingdom.
Al-Nimr was a central figure in the Arab Spring-inspired protests by Saudi Arabia’s Shiite minority until his arrest in 2012.
He was convicted of terrorism charges but denied advocating violence.
Bahrain’s Sunni monarchy, which quashed mass protests by the Shiite majority in 2011 with the help of Saudi and Emirati forces, enjoys particularly close relations with Saudi Arabia, and shares Riyadh’s view that Shiite Iran is intent on destabilising the region through its various proxies.
Bahraini officials have accused Iran of training militants and attempting to smuggle arms into the country.
Sudan’s Foreign Ministry announced an “immediate severing of ties” over the diplomatic mission attacks. The statement carried by its state-run news agency said it made the decision in “solidarity with Saudi Arabia in the face of Iranian schemes”.
The UAE, a country of seven emirates, has a long trading history with Iran and is home to many ethnic Iranians.
It said it would reduce the number of diplomats in Iran and recall its ambassador “in the light of Iran’s continuous interference in the internal affairs of Gulf and Arab states, which has reached unprecedented levels”.
Somalia also criticised the attack on Saudi diplomatic posts in Iran as a “flagrant violation” of international law.
Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir announced the cut in relations on Sunday and gave Iranian diplomatic personnel 48 hours to leave his country. All Saudi diplomatic personnel in Iran have been called home.