Mid-East Melee: Sectarian Showdown Looms As Bahrain Cuts Ties With Iran, UAE Recalls Ambassador

Tyler Durden's picture

Over the weekend, a geopolitical black swan landed in the Mid-East where Saudi Arabia’s execution of a prominent Shiite cleric set in motion a series of events that led Riyadh to sever diplomatic ties with Tehran.

Protests broke out almost immediately after news of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr’s death hit the wires. Tensions reached a boiling point on Saturday evening in Tehran where demonstrators torched the Saudi embassy. In Bahrain, angry Shiites burned tires and confronted riot police who used tear gas to disperse the crowds.

As BBC notes, Bahrain “has frequently accused Iran of supporting a low-level Shia insurgency that flared following the regional Arab Spring uprisings in 2011.”

"Bahrain's Saudi-backed Sunni authorities crushed protests led by its majority Shia shortly after they erupted on February 14, 2011, taking their cue from Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa," al-Jazeera wrote back in February when hundreds took to the streets of Manama to commemorate the anniversary of the Arab Spring uprising. "Tensions are running high in the kingdom where a sectarian divide is deepening and there is a growing gap between the Sunni minority government and the Island’s Shia majority."

On Monday, the island followed in the footsteps of the Saudis and cut diplomatic ties with the Iranians. "Bahrain severed diplomatic ties with Iran on Monday, deepening the region’s sectarian divide following Saudi Arabia’s execution of a prominent Shiite Muslim cleric," WSJ writes, adding that the country "accused Iran of intervening in its affairs and those of its allies, and ordered all members Iran’s mission to leave the country within 48 hours."

And it's not just Bahrain. As predicted here over the weekend, this has quickly morphed into a sweeping sectarian conflict with the UAE lowering diplomatic representation in Iran and Sudan expelling the Iranian ambassador. UAE Ambassador Saif Al Zaabi was summoned to return, while the charge d’affaires will remain," Bloomberg reports. "[The UAE's] exceptional step was taken in light of Iranian 'interference' in Gulf, Arab states’ internal affairs," the foreign ministry said. For its part, Kuwait says it backs "all measures adopted by Saudi Arabia to maintain its security and stability."

Meanwhile, Tehran says Riyadh is using the embassy fire to obscure its own misdeeds. "Iran has acted in accordance with its (diplomatic) obligations to control the broad wave of popular emotion that arose," foreign ministry spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari said on Monday.

"Saudi Arabia benefits and thrives on prolonging tensions [and] has used this incident as an excuse to fuel the tensions," he added.

Recall what we said on Sunday evening:

It's also worth noting how absurd it is for the Saudis to suggest that the Iranians are the ones "spreading chaos and sectarianism" in the region. After all, it wasn't Tehran that just executed a prominent member of another sect and it's not Iran that preaches a dangerous, ultra puritanical interpretation of Islam similar to that which Sunni extremists use to justify the execution of apostates. Further, it wasn't Iran that destabilized Syria by fanning the flames of sectarian discord. 

"Bahrain also gave the Iranian diplomatic mission 48 hours to leave the country, and plans to close its mission in Tehran," Bloomberg writes before underscoring the hypocrisy on full display in the Gulf states with the following assessment of Bahrain's rationale: "The move came in response to Iran’s interference in Bahrain and other Gulf countries. [Bahrain] accused Iran of funding, supporting and arming 'terrorists and extremists' and inciting strife in the region."

Right. We wouldn't want anyone to "fund, support, and arm terrorists and extremists" or "incite strife", even though that is precisely what the Gulf monarchies are doing in Syria and indeed, supporting extremists is something of an unwritten foreign policy imperative in Riyadh where the government follows an interpretation of Islam that is uncomfortably akin to that espoused by ISIS, al-Qaeda, and many of the other Sunni extremist groups that the Western world generally identifies with terrorism. 

And speaking of Saudi-backed groups who some analysts call "extremists," Jaysh al Islam threw its support behind Riyadh's move to cut ties with the Iranians. You'll recall that Jaysh al Islam effectively administers Ghouta which was the site of the infamous 2013 sarin attack in Syria. Late last month, the group's leader Zahran Alloush was killed by an apparent Russian airstrike in what many described as a serious blow to the rebel cause. Iran is "threatening the security of the region by exporting criminal militias that spread destruction and death and are filled with sectarian vengeance", the group said, an assessment that applies equally if not more to the Saudis than it does to the Iranians.

Predictably, Iraq is seeing a backlash against its Sunni population. As Reuters reports, "at least two Sunni Muslim mosques have been attacked in Iraq and two people killed in apparent retaliation for the execution of a senior Shi'ite cleric in Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia." Here's a bit more color:

The attack on the Ammar bin Yasir mosque in central Hilla destroyed its dome and several walls, according to a Reuters TV cameraman who visited the site. Provincial council member Falah al-Khafaji and a police source said a guard inside the building had been killed.


"We saw smoke rising from the dome of the mosque. We found all the walls destroyed and the furniture inside in shambles," said resident Uday Hassan Ali.


Another mosque in Hilla's northern outskirts, al-Fath al-Mubeen, was also attacked, Khafaji and the police source said.


A local Sunni cleric was killed in a separate incident in Iskandariya, about 40 km (25 miles) south of Baghdad, they added.

So there you have it: a full blown sectarian melee. One shouldn't underestimate the gravity of what's unfolding here. The region is a veritable tinder box and the events that took place over the weekend provided the spark.

Don't forget that many of these countries are effectively already at war with Iran in Syria and Yemen. Consider also that this is likely to inspire further protests by oppressed Shiites living in the Gulf states - especially now that the five year anniversary of the Arab Spring is upon us. Throw in the fact that Iran is about to get an economic boost from the lifting of international sanctions and you have the recipe for a complete reimagining of the dynamics that shape the Mid-East balance of power.

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Latina Lover's picture

Sung to "Rocking the Casbah" by the Clash, Ayatollah/Iranian Version:


We really don't like them, lets rocket the casbah, rocket the casbah!

We really don't like them, lets rocket the casbah, rocket the casbah!


VinceFostersGhost's picture



Time for Thunderdome......let's get it on!

Looney's picture

This whole anti-Iran thing was planned well in advance.

The Saudis have been getting their ass kicked in both, Syria and Yemen, and they are pissed and scared. So, a couple of weeks ago they formed a new “coalition” with Sunni states only.

Then, they execute a Shia cleric along with a bunch of Al-Qaeda terrisss, making it appear as if they were linked.

The Saudis knew full well that the Shias will react violently to the cleric’s beheading, and now… now all these Sunni-states from the Saudi-led coalition are cutting off all diplomatic ties with Iran.

I hope 0bama keeps playing golf and getting high, so he doesn’t get us all involved into this sectarian dick-measuring contest.  ;-)


HowdyDoody's picture

So the Saudis got pissed off when Tehran compared them to ISIS. It seems lie a reasonable comparison to me.


Hephaestus's picture

Oh shit I bet the Saudis are running low on oil. They must have struck a deal with the west to manage Iraq, Syria, and Iran for the west in exchange for help taking over. This deal must have included a hard date for the price drop. Unfortunately they stalled in the take over and now that deal is costing them everything. If they cant break through they are doomed along with the US dollar. So the US will be going back there in force.

knukles's picture

Kill each other and let whomever's God sort it out.
BTW, folks, this means pumping Much More Oil to Get Revenues to Fight the Enemy of Your Friend who is your Enemy


                                   "This means war!"
                                            -Groucho Marx

NidStyles's picture

This is simply the Zionists cutting their ties as the US and the rest of Europe starts to wake up to the threat of the Zionist existence within their borders.


They have to start the war to prevent everyone from revolting against their planning. 


Just like the setup for WW1, they are simply knocking down the dominoes waiting for it kick off.

BaBaBouy's picture

""Saudis Kill Top Shiite Cleric""

2016... Very Likely "House Of Saud Goin' Down"... And It Will Be A Fucking MESS...

divingengineer's picture

So true, why am I not as excited as other ZHers?

DeadFred's picture

What they Sauds are up to I don't know. But I'm certain they understood the reaction before they cut the head off a guy who they'd had in prison for some time and was causing them little more than symbolic trouble. They knew this would happen and wanted it... why?

UndergroundPost's picture

Iran spawns Hizbollah while shouting Allah is great,

Saudi Arabia responds by birthing the Islamic State.


Iran's radical Shi'ites innovate mass killing with a suicide vest,

Saudi's radical Wahhabis up the ante showing suicide planes work best.


Brothers of Islam they will always be,

brothers for centuries always fighting, never free.


So now Yemen and Syria have become the Islamists' Caliphate door

for Saudi and Iran to drag the world into thermonuclear war.

UndergroundPost's picture

Family sqwabbles are the worst kind, especially those that have been going on for 1400 years. This will not end well...or peacefully.

junction's picture

Civil war in the Middle East plays into the hands of the Obama neocons who are closet Satanists at heart.

__Usury__'s picture
__Usury__ (not verified) junction Jan 4, 2016 8:44 AM

wasnt Iran on wes clarks list?


kralizec's picture

Another Sunni-Shia clash was destined to happen again despite any meddlings of foreign interlopers.  

Your theory of Obama wanting the Saudi's to start a war with Iran seems to me to be far fetched and gives that idiot credit for scrupples he does not possess.  Like most of this closet Muzzies actions in the Middle East, he creates more envy and hatred and then walks away pronouncing the matters solved and is not held repsonsible for any aftermath.  Just like the envy and hatred he let loose in America.  It took the first Black president to make race relations and the economic situation more dire, and it took the same asshole to make world relations nosedive as well.  In that respect your Satanist comment fits perfectly. 

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

I found it hilarious to read this morning that the 'good' Syrian rebels support Saudi Arabia confronting Iran. Reuters reported it with a straight face.

VinceFostersGhost's picture



We're the only one getting the 'good' Syrian rebels.


The president is gonna take away our guns to give them a head start.

chinoslims's picture

The news of the Syrian rebels supporting KSA is so lame. Who wrote that, Captain Obvious?


This just in . . . the Syrian rebels are Sunnis.

radiobomb's picture

Huxley chuckles in his grave !...'good' rebels,.... nice one Cog.

Lorca's Novena's picture

"Taking off his turban they say, is this man a jew? workin for the clampdown..."  The better Clash song

One And Only's picture

So business as usual for the Middle East.

Good to know in such a fast paced world full of change at least something remains consistent.

Theta_Burn's picture

Sides established, now for 1 rocket to land in the wrong field somewhere...

JustObserving's picture

Just what the world needed - more tensions and more conflict

The barbaric killing spree carried out by the regime in Riyadh was a calculated political act driven by both domestic and international objectives. The Saudi monarchy joined the execution of Nimr with those of the alleged Al Qaeda members to drive home its identification of any opposition to its rule as an act of terrorism. In the first instance, its aim is to intimidate the Shiite minority, which constitutes approximately 15 percent of the population and is concentrated in the Eastern Province, a key oil-producing region.

At the same time, the House of Saud was sending a bloody signal that it will ruthlessly suppress any attempt to bring home the kind of Islamist terrorism it has fomented, funded and ideologically inspired elsewhere, with particularly horrific effect in Syria. The monarchy is increasingly fearful that it could fall prey to the Frankenstein monster it has unleashed in the form of groups such as ISIS and the Al Nusra Front, whose Wahabi religious ideology and mass beheadings are modeled after the state terror imposed in Saudi Arabia itself


firstdivision's picture

My money is on Iran as SA has been pissing us off with killing shale and supporting jihad

Omega_Man's picture

Where does Israel fit into this? Who will give the pals some heavy weapons to destroy Israel?

BurningFuld's picture

Israel has been working behind the scenes to get this whole shit show started.

Omega_Man's picture

I know but they need payback

NoPension's picture

Seems they are playing it smart.

Keep their head down. Stay out of the fray. Don't give their mortal enemies a mutual rallying cause. And watch them beat each other to a pulp.

So far, they have managed to not earn a mention.

Very interesting.

Winston Churchill's picture

Light blue touch paper and retire.

WonderDawg's picture

Seeing as how the Zionists control the US media, if they don't want to be mentioned, they won't be.

firstdivision's picture

They are in the middle advising both sides and getting a good seat for the fireworks.

roadhazard's picture

Israel celebrates all raghead on raghead violence. Less terrorists to attack them. I hate ragheads because they have been harshing my mellow my whole life by having to hear about that hell hole daily. Fuck a bunch of ragheads. Eat sand, bitches.

NoPension's picture

This should be an interesting year.

chinoslims's picture

Is the clerics name Franz Ferdinand? 

BurningFuld's picture

That's was. And yes translated from arab it is.

Element's picture

These guys say they don't care about pissing off Washington (same with the attack on Yemen btw), but when these guys have finished getting themselves into a missile war with Iran, they will want the West to back them, and pull their fat out of the fire.

"Fuck the Washington!" - Hossein Jaberi Ansari

radiobomb's picture

2016 looking stable then .....

wonder how many other ME countries pile in ? ....

or even if a few non-ME countries will ....

youngman's picture

How would you know who is who....a tough war to fight...but they love to fight..have been for 1000 years or more...better against themselves than with us....

Omega_Man's picture

let's take over saudi and send them packing, that's our oil... give them tents and pajamas 

Omega_Man's picture

hopefully North Korea will lend some nukes to Iran

Omega_Man's picture

Israel, Saudi and Nuland had this planned...

Hephaestus's picture

They better dump that new king before the royal crown gets shoved up their asses.

IronForge's picture

Looks like we're about to have another Hot Conflict Zone with NationState Level Armed Forces, since SYR couldn't be overrun.  Didn't read too much into the Cleric's Execution in KSA; but the Embassy Torching does complicate matters.

Well, TRK is in QAT, so we just might see some sparks in the Gulf Again...

williambanzai7's picture

What a bunch of camel fucking clowns: Iranian terrorists...now that sounds fucking funny given what we are told is happening all around the world.

user2011's picture

US shale is saved.  With major OPEC get into fighting, US can now provide oil and gas to the world..  Isis could not get the job done, but Saudi's will keep it going.    Muslims are so easily manipulated

loonyleft's picture

US can now provide oil and gas to the world.........how? Muslims are so easily manipulated. I am guessing you are muslim then. 

eurogold's picture

Let them kill each other........and let's stay out of this.

loonyleft's picture

who is 'them'? The US for training 'moderates in Syria? Explicitly backing SA to maintain the petro dollar? Invading multiple muslim countries and killing 100s of thousands of people? 

I guess we should all be lucky that the US 'stays out of this'. It might be a real shit show if they got involved.