Kuwait recalls ambassador to Tehran amid escalating Saudi-Iran tension

Iran has expressed “regret” over two attacks on Saudi Arabian diplomatic missions and said it will spare no effort in arresting and prosecuting those responsible.

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Iran has been a long-time supporter of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, while Saudi Arabia has provided the rebel factions fighting Assad with financial assistance and weapons.

The White House said Secretary of State John Kerry had spoken Sunday with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, while the official Saudi Press Agency reported that Kerry had spoken on Monday with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Following the execution of an outspoken Shiite cleric in Saudi Arabia on Saturday, protesters ransacked the Saudi embassy in Tehran, setting fire to the building.

Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties with Tehran in protest at the attacks on Sunday and has severed air links with Iran.

Bahrain and Sudan followed suit Monday by completely severing diplomatic relations, while the United Arab Emirates downgraded its diplomatic efforts.

Some 80 Saudis, including diplomats and their families, had already left Iran and arrived in Dubai on Monday, diplomatic sources said.

On Monday, Saudi Arabia’s civil aviation authority suspended all flights to and from Iran, saying the move was based on the kingdom’s cutting of diplomatic ties.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov hosted both Jubeir and Zarif individually past year for talks on the Syrian crisis as Moscow pushed for the creation of a broad coalition to fight Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) jihadists in Syria.

Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United Nations calls on Iran to stop interfering in the affairs of other countries to restore ties between the two rival powers.

“This could turn out to be something that further inflames the region”, according to Robert Jordan, a former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

The tension with Saudi Arabia “will have no impact on Iran’s national development”, Nobakht said.

Kuwait didn’t cut diplomatic ties entirely, as other Saudi allies have done.

“I don’t think this is going to open warfare, but it’s going to make the proxy battles worse”, said Mohamad Bazzi, a professor at New York University who is writing a book on Iranian-Saudi relations.

Earlier, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that the Sunni Muslim kingdom would face “divine revenge” for the execution – an act which also angered Shia Muslims elsewhere in the Middle East.

“By making these arrests around this time the government hopes to intimidate converts by threatening them with heavy punishments … so that they would either leave the country or stop their [religious] activities”, a spokesperson for the Alliance of Iranian Churches told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. He was a vocal critic of Saudi Arabia, and was one of seven people accused of orchestrating anti-government protests that erupted in Saudi Arabia’s eastern province in 2011.

The violence stems from Saudi Arabia’s execution of a prominent opposition Shiite cleric over the weekend, which predominantly Shiite Iran has denounced.

He says that the main threat in terms of religious conflict in the continent is posed by Islamist groups such as Boko Haram and Al Shabaab. The United States and Germany called for restraint.

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“One does not respond to criticism by cutting off heads”, Rouhani said, referring to the usual Saudi practice of carrying out executions with beheading by the sword.

Saudi Arabia cuts diplomatic ties with Iran