On Saturday, Saudi Arabia carried out its largest series of executions since 1980, putting 47 men to death either by beheading or firing squad.
The Daily Mail reports “The latest men executed were different from the minor drug traffickers, foreign servants who have killed an employer, or ‘sorcerers’ and ‘witches’ who make up the usual cast of victims.
For sure, they included several al-Qaida terrorists, among them bearded ideologue Fares al-Shuwail, and Adel al-Dhubaiti, who in 2004 murdered BBC cameraman Simon Cumbers and left reporter Frank Gardner for dead. Few will mourn either of them.
But the Saudis took the opportunity to add in four individuals from the Shia sect of Islam – a minority in Saudi Arabia which is predominantly of the Sunni faith – including the prominent dissident cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.”
The executions sparked protests among Shiites in the Middle East, with Iranians storming and setting fire to Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Iran.
As AFP reported, Iran’s leaders were not best pleased either:
Iran’s supreme leader warned Sunday that Saudi Arabia would face “divine revenge” for deciding to execute a Shiite cleric, calling the killing a mistake which would “haunt” the kingdom’s politicians.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was joined in his condemnation of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr’s death by neighbouring Iraq’s top Shiite authority, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who described the death sentence as an unjust act of aggression.
But Khamenei, in a speech to clerics in Tehran, said the killing would not go unanswered.
“The unjustly spilt blood of this martyr will have quick consequences,” he said.
“God will not forgive. This scholar neither encouraged people into armed action nor secretly conspired for plots but the only thing he did was utter public criticism rising from his religious zeal.”
Now you might be reading this and thinking, so what? Do we care if they’re fighting each other? The problem is, it’s not just Muslim against Muslim, but nation against nation. And the world is in the habit of taking sides.
As Rich Galen writes, “The last two World Wars started when a couple of countries got into it and everyone else began to choose up sides.The Iranians (Shiites) are on the opposite side of the Syrian civil war from the Saudis (Sunnis). They are also supporting opposite sides in Yemen.”
Add to that toxic mess Russia, which is on the same side as Iran in terms of Syria (supporting Assad).
Galen says, “Two bystanders may become involved. Bahrain, the small island nation off west coast of Saudi Arabia, has long been a target of Iranian fifth column activity. The Arab Spring riots there were, if not fully paid for by the Iranians, were almost certainly given moral and tactical support.
Across the Arabian Peninsula, Israel is going to higher alert in case the Palestinians, Hezbollah, or anyone else thinks the Saudi executions would be a good reason to go to attack them.
It is not unlikely that secret discussions between Israel and Saudi Arabia have been stepped up to form a joint defense agreement against Iran and its allies.
The atmosphere in the Middle East is explosive. All it will take is a spark: An attack against Saudi oil fields or pipelines, a run at a senior member of the Saudi government, or an ISIS-inspired attack in Riyadh, or Jeddah or another major Saudi city.”
Let us hope this doesn’t happen, because it’s clearly obvious the United States doesn’t have a commander in chief who would have a clue what to do about it.
[Note: This post was authored by The Analytical Economist]