From Baghdad to Bahrain…From Beruit to Tehran – Tensions Are Exploding Across the Middle East

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Either the rebel prince succeeds in convincing enough people who matter to remove the King, or the King counters and drives the prince out. The former situation is far and away the best option for stability in the Middle East, and would likely allow the Saudi royal lineage to hold on to power for longer. If the second scenario unfolds, current leadership will crack down even harder on dissent and run the state further into the ground. This behavior will ultimately lead to an unpredictable and likely violent revolution, and if you think the Middle East is volatile now, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

As John F. Kennedy accurately noted:

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.

This also applies to Saudi Arabia.

– From the post: Regime Change is Coming – Saudi Prince Calls for Coup to Remove King

If you’re like me, you’ve probably been pretty checked out of global news over the past severals days. It’s time to get checked in.

The extremely dangerous developments currently unfolding throughout the Middle East cannot be overstated. Indeed, it appears we may be on the verge of all out regional conflict. In order to understand what’s happening and where things might go, let’s review the events of recent days.

On January 2nd, Saudi officials welcomed the New Year by holding its largest mass execution since 1980. 47 individuals were put to death across 12 cities, some by firing squad, others by hanging. While the vast majority (43) were Sunni jihadists accused of attacks upon Western compounds and government buildings during the 2003-2006 period, the remaining victims were Shiite dissidents, most notably the revered and prominent cleric Nimr al-Nimr.

The resulting backlash from Beruit to Tehran, from Baghdad to Bahrain, has been nothing short of explosive. Expect this execution to be remembered as a major catalyst in the regional chaos to come.

Here’s a sampling of headlines from the Associate Press’ continuing coverage:

First, from Lebanon:

The leader of Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah has strongly condemned Saudi Arabia for executing prominent opposition Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr.

In a televised speech on Sunday, Hassan Nasrallah described al-Nimr as a brave martyr and holy warrior, who didn’t carry weapons or espouse armed conflict and was killed only for his criticism of the Al Saud ruling family. Celebratory gunfire rang out in central Beirut at the speech’s beginning and end.

Nasrallah said the Saudis could not take any criticism, and thus they executed al-Nimr in what amounts to a “serious crime” that “cannot be taken lightly.”

Earlier, protesters gathered in Beirut at the Saudi Embassy and United Nations buildings to denounce the execution.

Audiences at the rallies and watching Nasrallah’s speech chanted: “Death to the house of Saud.”

In a televised speech on Sunday, Hassan Nasrallah described al-Nimr as “the martyr, the holy warrior,” and also gave condolences to the people of Saudi Arabia’s Shiite eastern regions.

Hezbollah also issued a statement, with Deputy Secretary General Sheikh Naim Qassem condemning the execution as “a sign of shame and weakness for Saudi Arabia.”

He said Saudi Arabia has “arrived at its point of maximum weakness and is digging its own grave. It has taken the path of cowards.”

Next, Bahrain:

Police in Bahrain have fired birdshot and used water cannons to push back demonstrators protesting Saudi Arabia over its execution of a Shiite cleric.

The protest happened Sunday on Sitra Island, south of Bahrain’s capital, Manama. The demonstrators numbered into the hundreds and chanted that Nimr al-Nimr is “our martyr.”

Hundreds also marched in al-Daih, west of Manama, chanting slogans against Saudi Arabia’s ruling Al Saud family and the Sunni family ruling Bahrain.

Al-Nimr was an outspoken critic of Saudi Arabia’s Sunni monarchy but denied ever calling for violence. His execution has sparked outrage among Shiites across the region.

Saudi Arabia executed Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr on Saturday along with 46 others convicted on terror charges, including three other Shiite dissidents and a number of al-Qaida militants.

Next up, Iran:

Witnesses say some 400 protesters have gathered at the Saudi Embassy in Tehran after it was stormed overnight.

Authorities had told demonstrators not to protest in front of the embassy and instead gather at a square in central Tehran. The 400 protesters apparently disregarded that, shouting: “Death to Al-Saud!”

Meanwhile, the road the embassy sits on in northern Tehran saw a new street sign come up in recent hours. Instead of saying “Boustan” or “park” in Farsi, it now reads “Sheikh Nimr St.” in honor of the Shiite cleric that Saudi Arabia executed on Saturday.

Protesters in Iran, angered by al-Nimr’s execution, broke into the Saudi Embassy early Sunday, setting fires and throwing papers from the roof.

Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard has compared Saudi Arabia’s execution of an opposition Shiite cleric to attacks carried out by the extremist Islamic State group.

The Guard says in a statement Sunday that Saudi Arabia’s “medieval act of savagery” in putting Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr to death will lead to the “downfall” of the monarchy.

The comments by the Guard mirror those of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who also strongly criticized the sheikh’s execution.

Iran’s Supreme Leader says Saudi Arabia will face “divine revenge” after the execution of a revered Shiite cleric.

Khamenei’s website carried the comments by the ayatollah, who also criticized the ongoing Saudi-led war in Yemen against Shiite rebels, as well as the “persecution” of Shiites living in Saudi-allied Bahrain.

Also on Sunday, Khamenei’s Twitter account said: “Doubtlessly, unfairly spilled blood of oppressed martyr (hashtag)SheikhNimr will affect rapidly & Divine revenge will seize Saudi politicians.”

Now let’s look at Iraq:

Iraq’s top Shiite cleric has condemned the execution of a prominent Shiite opposition figure in Saudi Arabia, calling him a “martyr.”

In a statement Sunday, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani extends his condolences for the “martyrdom” of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr and others from eastern Saudi Arabia, where the Shiite minority is concentrated.

He adds that “their blood was unjustly and aggressively shed.”

Meanwhile, in Saudi Arabia’s eastern Shiite province, tensions are also running high…

Al-Nimr says they would hold three days of mourning beginning Sunday night at the Imam Hussein Mosque in al-Awamiya, a village in eastern Saudi Arabia, where the Shiite minority is concentrated.

He says bakeries, pharmacies, shops and gas stations in the area will close out of respect.

Never fear, the UN is on the case. You know, the same hapless and hopelessly corrupt international body which recently named Saudi Arabia head of a Human Rights Panel.

The U.N.’s top human rights official has strongly criticized Saudi Arabia for executing 47 people in a single day.

Zeid Raad al-Hussein says the execution Saturday was “a very disturbing development indeed, particularly as some of those sentenced to death were accused of non-violent crimes.”

In a statement Sunday, he questioned whether due process had been observed during the trials of those executed, all of whom were convicted of terrorism charges.

Thanks for nothing, United Nations.

Meanwhile, in addition to the Iranian reactions mentioned above. The following was reported by the Guardian:

“I have no doubt that the Saudi government has damaged its image, more than before, among the countries in the world – in particular [among] Islamic countries –by this un-Islamic act,” Rouhani said.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called on Saudi Arabia’s western backers to directly condemn the execution, which came three years after Nimr was arrested following his vocal support for anti-government protests in Bahrain and Riyadh.

“This oppressed cleric did not encourage people to join an armed movement, nor did he engage in secret plotting, and he only voiced public criticism … based on religious fervour,” said Khamenei, who criticised “the silence of the supposed backers of freedom, democracy and human rights” over the execution.

“Why are those who claim to support human rights quiet? Why do those who claim to back freedom and democracy support this government?”

For that, the Saudis have decided to cut off diplomatic ties with Iran.

The New York Times reports:

BAGHDAD — Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties with Iran on Sunday and gave all Iranian diplomats 48 hours to leave the kingdom, as escalating tensions over the execution of an outspoken Shiite cleric in Saudi Arabiamarked a new low in relations between the two Middle Eastern powers.

To conclude, much of what’s happening (and will continue to happen) in the Middle East is a direct result of a transition of power which happened early last year in Saudi Arabia. While there is a new King, the guy who’s really pulling the strings is his son, Prince , who is pejoratively known as “Reckless.”

To get caught up on important related developments, see:

German Intelligence Warns – Saudi Arabia to Play “Destabilizing Role” in the Middle East

Regime Change is Coming – Saudi Prince Calls for Coup to Remove King

Saudi Arabia Bombs Second Yemeni Wedding in a Week – At Least 23 Dead

Welcome to America – Several Things to Ponder as the Saudi King Visits the White House

New Saudi King Unveils Internal Power Shake-up in Desperate Pivot Toward Increased Authoritarianism

Need a Job? Saudi Arabia is Looking for Eight Swordsmen to Keep up with Record Beheadings

The Great Wall of Saudi – Feudal Desert Kingdom to Build 600-Mile Wall to Protect from ISIS

This is not to say that the prior Saudi King was some sort of teddy bear, but the guy currently running the show seems to be certifiably insane. It appears “Reckless” is about to set the entire region in flames. Stay tuned.

In Liberty,
Michael Krieger