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Tension Growing Between Saudi Arabia and Iran 

January 4, 2016
Plain English Version
Iranian protesters set fire to the Saudi Embassy in Tehran during a demonstration against the execution of prominent Shiite Muslim cleric Nimr al-Nimr by Saudi authorities, on January 2, 2016. Nimr was a driving force of the protests that broke out in 2011 in Saudi Arabia's east, an oil-rich region where the Shiite minority of an estimated two million people complains of marginalisation. AFP PHOTO / ATTA KENARE / AFP / ATTA KENARE (Photo credit should read ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)

Iranian protesters set fire to the Saudi Embassy in Tehran during a demonstration against the execution of prominent Shiite Muslim cleric Nemer al-Nemer by Saudi authorities, on January 2, 2016. . ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)

The Saudi Arabian government has just cut diplomatic ties with Iran. This follows a ransacking of the Saudi Embassy in Tehran.

The Saudi Arabia government had just put 47 people to death. The executed included a well-known Saudi Shiite cleric. His name was Sheik Nemer al-Nemer. The Sheik was arrested and jailed in 2012.

The mob broke furniture and smashed windows. The protesters also set fire to the embassy. The police arrived and cleared the grounds of protesters and put out the fire.

Here is the background to the story.

Saudi Arabia is mostly a Sunni Muslim country. But, Shiites also have always lived there. The country is fighting Houthis rebels in Yemen. The Houthis are also Shiites. However, Experts say Yemen Houthis have different ideas than the Iranian Shiites. They call themselves Zaidis.

An American expert said the Sheik was a fiery opponent of the Saudi Arabia regime, but he was not a terrorist. Many said he did not preach violence against the regime or call for revolution.

The other individuals who were executed were convicted terrorists. Some had been in jail for ten years or more. Most were beheaded, but not in public.

Saudi Arabia says it is under attack from jihadists of the Islamic State. The government said the executions were a warning to terrorists. An official said the Saudi Arabia government would not hesitate to punish all terrorists.

Many people say the Saudi system of justice is flawed. It does not follow due process. There is no right to counsel.

The execution is seen to be political. It is part of the growing breach between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The executions were condemned by human rights groups.The Middle East is in turmoil. Things have just gotten worse.

Source: The Wall Street Journal January 3, 2016

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