Saudi Arabia Executes 47 Men, Including Prominent Shiite Cleric
#1
From Bloomberg:

Quote:Saudi Arabia executed 47 men convicted of terror-related offenses, including a dissident cleric who was critical of the kingdom’s rulers.

The punishments were carried out in 10 provinces, Saudi Arabia’s interior ministry said in a statement published on Saturday by the official Saudi Press Agency. While most of the convicted men were Saudi citizens, an Egyptian and a Chadian national were among those executed. Some of the men were shot by a firing squad and some were beheaded, a ministry spokesman said on Al-Arabiya TV.

The men were convicted of crimes including bombings that targeted the traffic department and interior ministry in Riyadh, plots to attack military airports, and other strikes on security forces, the ministry said. Some of the attacks happened between 2003 and 2006. Those executed were described as promoters of a “deviant” version of Islam, a phrase used by Saudi Arabia for al-Qaeda, Islamic State and other militant groups.

“This sends a message of resolve and firmness in Saudi Arabia’s policy of confrontation with its two enemies, mainly al-Qaeda and Iran," Ibrahim Fraihat, senior foreign policy fellow at the Brookings Doha Center, said in an interview. “It will also increase tensions inside Saudi Arabia because it gives the Shiite community new grievances and symbols to rally around within the country."

The kingdom is cracking down on domestic terrorists, who have staged multiple attacks since Saudi Arabia joined the U.S. coalition against Islamic State in 2014. Saudi security forces arrested 377 people for joining Islamic State, Al-Jazirah newspaper reported in December.

Cleric Death Sentence

Nimr al-Nimr, a dissident Shiite cleric from the oil-rich Eastern Province, was among those executed. Known for sermons that criticized Sunni rulers in Saudi Arabia, as well as Shiite Iran for supporting the Syrian regime’s crackdown on its opponents, al-Nimr was arrested in 2012 and sentenced to death in 2014.

The Saudi government will “pay a heavy price" for pursuing its policy of execution and suppression of its domestic critics, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Hossein Jaber Ansari said, according to the official news agency IRNA. “It is clear that the outcome of this unproductive and irresponsible policy will affect those behind it," he said.

Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign-policy chief, condemned the use of the death penalty and said al-Nimr’s execution could inflame sectarian tensions in the region. She also called for the Saudi authorities to exercise restraint and promote reconciliation.

Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group backed by Iran, said in an e-mailed statement that the U.S. was directly responsible for al-Nimr’s execution because it supports the Saudi Arabian government.

While Sunni-majority Saudi Arabia largely escaped the unrest that spread across the Arab world in 2011, the country’s minority Shiites, who say they suffer discrimination, have occasionally protested and fought with security forces. Islamic State has exploited this fault line, striking Shiite mosques last year.

Cease-Fire Ends

Saudi Arabia plans to host a joint operations room in Riyadh to coordinate a coalition of 34 Muslim nations to combat terrorism in Islamic countries,

Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is also the kingdom’s defense minister, said last month. The decision to form the coalition is part of a broader effort by Saudi Arabia to establish itself as the leader of the Sunni Muslim world’s battle against terrorism.

The kingdom is also leading a military campaign against Shiite rebels in Yemen, which began with air strikes in March 2015 and later escalated to include ground forces. Saudi Arabian border towns are regularly hit by shells. A cease-fire agreed last month expired on Saturday, the SPA reported, citing a coalition statement.

Saturday’s mass executions “deepen tensions and harm national unity within Saudi Arabia," but they aren’t expected to spark protests or an escalation in violence, Fraihat from Brookings said.
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#2
And the Saudi embassy in Tehran was stormed and torched, with many thinking the Iranian government turned a blind eye. The Saudis are calling it an act of terrorism, and Sudan has cut off diplomatic relations with Iran. All this, of course, further eroding any little bit of regional order and potentially spreading the conflict further.

Looks like a giant poop sandwich in the makings to me.
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#3
...and now Pakistan's entered the diplomatic whizzing contest.

http://abcnews.go.com/International/wire...t-36195850

Let's see if this puts pressure on Iran to ratchet things down a bit.
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