These are the events that led to heightened Saudi-Iran tensions

Political, economic and cultural relations between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been strained by various socio-political issues over the years. The most recent, which seems to have added a spiteful twist to the ongoing Sunni-Shiite struggle across the Middle East, places Saudi Arabia and Iran in the forefront. Following the execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr along with 46 others, Iranian demonstrators staged a protest in front of the Saudi Embassy, in Tehran, on Sunday, January 3rd, 2016. Al-Nimr’s execution has been condemned by many Shiites across the region. Here are some of the events that have culminated in heightened tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran:

Iranian revolution 

The Islamic Revolution, which occurred in Iran in 1979, was as a result of a violent overthrow of the government as many Iranians disliked the Shah of Iran at the time, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and Ruhollah Khomeini became the Supreme Leader of Iran.

While Iran is a Twelver Shia Islamic Republic founded in an anti-Western revolution, Saudi Arabia is an orthodox “Wahhabi” Sunni Islamic kingdom. As such, both have different ideas concerning order and stability, as well as different aspirations for the leadership of Islam. In the aftermath of the Islamic Revolution, the relationship between both countries became strained after Iran accused Saudi Arabia of being an agent of the US in the Persian Gulf region, representing western interests instead of  Islam.

The 2011 alleged Iran assassination plot

On the 11th of October, 2011, the Iranian government was accused of allegedly plotting to assassinate the Saudi ambassador, Adel al-Jubeir, in the United States. The plot was referred to as the “Iran assassination plot” or the “Iran terror plot” in the media, while the Federal Bureau of Investigation named the case “Operation Red Coalition”.

Manssor Arbabsiar and Gholam Shakuri, both Iranian nationals were charged in a federal court in New York with plotting to assassinate Al-Jubeir. According to US officials, the two planned to murder Al-Jubeir at a restaurant with a bomb, after which they would make an attempt to detonate a bomb at the Saudi embassy and the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C.

The execution of Nimr al-Nimr

The most recent is the execution of Nimr al-Nimr. Saudi Arabia executed about 47 people believed to be terrorists on January 1st and among them was a prominent Shia muslim cleric. Following this event, Iranians attacked Saudi’s embassy in Tehran, causing Saudi Arabia to announce a severance of ties with Iran.

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