Compliments of Washington Post
Kuwait became the latest in a growing list of Saudi Arabian allies to cut or downgrade ties with Iran, saying Tuesday that it has recalled its ambassador to Tehran in solidarity with the kingdom as tensions deepen.
The widening rifts — opened by the execution of a prominent Shiite cleric in Saudi Arabia on Saturday — have pitted Saudi Arabia and its Sunni allies against Tehran’s Shiite leadership. The confrontations could push the region dangerously closer to conflict and imperil critical objectives including peace efforts in Syria and the fight against the Islamic State.
Calls for restraint have come from around the world as each side digs in.
Bahrain and Sudan earlier joined Saudi Arabia in severing diplomatic relations with Iran on Monday. The United Arab Emirates, a key Iranian trading partner, recalled its ambassador, and then Kuwait followed suit.
Shiite-led protests, meanwhile, have flared across the Middle East. In Tehran, the Saudi Embassy was ransacked and burned just hours after the cleric, Nimr Baqr al-Nimr, was put to death.
Nimr was a leading voice among Saudi Arabia’s Shiite minority, which has complained of discrimination and other pressures at the hands of the kingdom’s Sunni rulers. Saudi authorities convicted Nimr of terrorism-related acts.
Among the worries is whether the impasse could set back attempts at finding a political formula to end the civil war in Syria, where Iran backs the government of President Bashar al-Assad and Saudi Arabia is on the opposite side as a major supporter of anti-Assad factions.
After emergency talks in Riyadh, the United Nations’ special envoyfor Syria, Staffan de Mistura, said Tuesday that Saudi leaders had expressed “clear determination” not to let the disputes derail Syrian peace bids. De Mistura next travels to Tehran to assess whether the talks between rival Syrian factions can go ahead as scheduled Jan. 25.
The diplomatic feud also could become an unwelcome distraction for Washington and its Western allies in the fight against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.
The Obama administration, caught in the middle by its quest for a closer relationship with Iran and its long-standing alliance with Saudi Arabia, said it hoped Tehran and Riyadh would dial back the hostile rhetoric that has fueled the worst crisis between the regional rivals in decades.