Bahrain says it is severing its diplomatic ties with Iran and has called upon Iranian diplomats to leave the country within 48 hours. Isa alHamadi, the Bahraini minister of media affairs, made the announcement on Monday amid heightened tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran, after Saturday’s attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran during protests against executions in the kingdom. Bahrain frequently accuses Iran of being behind protests among its Shia population.
Saudi Arabia cut ties with Iran on Sunday after Iranian protesters attacked its embassy in Tehran, following the kingdom’s decision to execute Shia religious figure Nimr alNimr along with 46 other convicts on terrorism charges. Iran’s foreign ministry said that Saudi Arabia was using the attack on its embassy in Tehran as a pretext to fuel tensions after being given a 48 hour deadline to remove its diplomatic mission from Riyadh. “Iran … is committed to provide diplomatic security based on international conventions. But Saudi Arabia, which thrives on tensions, has used this incident as an excuse to fuel the tensions,” Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari said in televised remarks on Monday.
But Adel alJubeir, the Saudi foreign minister, accused Iranian authorities of being complicit in the attack, saying that documents and computers were taken from the embassy building. He said that the Saudi diplomatic representative had sought help from the Iranian foreign ministry when the building was stormed, but the requests were ignored three times.
The secretary general of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Abdul Latif bin Rashid Al Zayani, also condemned the attacks against the Saudi embassy, saying that Iranian authorities bear full responsibility for the failing to protect the diplomatic mission. The Saudi foreign ministry announced on Sunday that its diplomatic staff had been evacuated from Tehran and were on their way back to the kingdom. The war of words between Saudi Arabia and Iran started on Saturday, after the kingdom’s announcement that Nimr was among 47 people executed on terrorism charges. Many of the men executed had been linked to attacks in Saudi Arabia between 2003 and 2006, blamed on alQaeda.
Four of those executed were said to be Shia. Nimr was accused of inciting violence and leading antigovernment protests in the country’s east in 2011. He was convicted of sedition, disobedience and bearing arms. He did not deny the political charges against him, but said he never carried weapons or called for violence. Nimr spent more than a decade studying theology in predominantly Shia Iran.
Speaking to Al Jazeera from Beirut, Joseph Kechichian, a Middle East analyst, said that the Saudi decision to suspend diplomatic ties was “quite a surprise”. “This is an escalation that will create havoc in the region,” he said.
Ellie Geranmayeh, an Iran expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said that the Saudi decision was likely to have repercussions for the region, particularly concerning the Syrian negotiations. “Western powers must increase efforts to safeguard this process and encourage the Saudis and Iran to continue their participation [in the Syria peace talks],” she told Al Jazeera from London. “These events further set back the urgently needed rapprochement between Tehran and Riyadh, and spell further trouble for an already fragile region.”