Saudi Arabia, Bahrain sever diplomatic relations with Iran
SAUDI Arabia and Bahrain cut off diplomatic ties with Iran yesterday, in the biggest meltdown in relations between the Persian Gulf's main Sunni and Shi'ite states in almost three decades, raising the spectre of deepening conflicts across the volatile region.
The Saudi government gave Iran's ambassador 48 hours to leave after protesters set its embassy in Teheran on fire at the weekend, following Riyadh's execution of Saudi cleric Nimr al-Nimr, a critic of the kingdom's treatment of its Shi'ite minority.
Bahrain, which also sent Iran's diplomats packing, said it planned to close its mission in Teheran, state-run Bahrain News Agency said.
The United Arab Emirates recalled its envoy from Teheran, while Kuwait said it backed "all measures adopted by Saudi Arabia to maintain its security and stability", Bloomberg reported.
The clash between the sectarian rivals risks worsening conflicts in Yemen and Syria, where Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia and Shi'ite Iran are fighting proxy wars.
According to Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, who announced the decision to eject the Iranians late on Sunday, Teheran provided protection for the leaders of the Al-Qaeda terrorist group and smuggling of weapons, reported the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya pan-Arab television news channel.
He also said Riyadh is determined to eradicate terrorism by supporting a joint Arab force and fight extremism by forging an Islamic military alliance.
Iran's foreign ministry responded with the accusation that Saudi Arabia was stoking regional tension to preserve its regime.
"Saudi Arabia sees not only its interests but also its existence in pursuing crises and confrontations and attempts to resolve its internal problems by exporting them to the outside," Agence France-Presse quoted ministry spokesman Hossein Jaber Ansari as saying.
The stand-off is the biggest between the two countries since the late 1980s, when Saudi Arabia suspended ties with Iran after its embassy was attacked following the death of Iranian pilgrims during haj in Mecca.
Saudi Arabia also supported Saddam Hussein's Iraq against Iran during the first Gulf War.
The spike in tensions comes after Iran last year secured a historic nuclear deal with world powers led by the United States, which raised deep concerns in Riyadh, a longtime US ally.