|The Saudi Embassy in Tehran on Dec 2, 2015 after Iranian|
protesters entered the building.
Iranian protesters ransacked and set fire to the Saudi Embassy in Tehran on Saturday after Saudi Arabia executed an outspoken Shiite cleric who had criticized the kingdom’s treatment of its Shiite minority.
The cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, was among 47 men executed in Saudi Arabia on terrorism-related charges, drawing condemnation from Iran and its allies in the region, and sparking fears that sectarian tensions could rise across the Middle East.
The executions coincided with increased attacks in Saudi Arabia by the jihadists of the Islamic State and an escalating rivalry between the Sunni monarchy and Shiite Iran that is playing out in conflicts in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere. Sheikh Nimr was an outspoken critic of the Saudi monarchy and was adopted as a symbolic leader by Shiite protesters in several Persian Gulf countries during the Arab Spring uprisings.
Saudi officials said the mass execution, one of the largest in the kingdom in decades, was aimed at deterring violence against the state. But analysts said that the grouping of Sheikh Nimr with hardened jihadists was a warning to domestic dissidents that could ripple across the region.
The execution of Sheikh Nimr is widely seen as part of that rivalry, and Shiite leaders in different countries — in Iran, in particular — condemned it.
The state-run Saudi Press Agency reported late Saturday that the Saudi Foreign Ministry had summoned the Iranian ambassador to Riyadh to give him “a statement of protest in severe language” because of the “aggressive” statements made by Iran about the executions. The ministry called them “blatant interference in the kingdom’s affairs.”
The ministry also said it held Iran responsible for protecting the Saudi Embassy in Tehran, the Saudi Consulate in the city of Mashhad and their employees, the news agency reported, citing an unnamed Foreign Ministry official. Protesters tore down a flag from the Saudi Consulate in Mashhad on Saturday.
In Tehran, protesters broke furniture and smashed windows in an annex to the embassy, a witness who was reached by telephone said. The protesters also set fire to the room, said the witness, who would provide only his first name, Abolfazl, because he had been involved in the protest.
The police arrived and cleared the embassy grounds of protesters and extinguished the fire, he said. The protest turned violent after participants began throwing Molotov cocktails at the embassy and then broke into the compound.
The semiofficial Iranian Students’ News Agency said the crowd had been chanting “Death to the Al-Saud family,” which rules Saudi Arabia, before some protesters entered the embassy and threw papers from the roof.
Source: The New York Times, Ben Hubbard, January 2, 2015