Riyadh’s execution of Shiite Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr was timed to coincide with the expected lifting of anti-Iranian sanctions and the rejuvenation of the Syrian peace process.
Saudi Arabia just beheaded a prominent anti-government activist and Shiite cleric, Nimr al-Nimr, on trumped-up charges of “terrorism”, executing him alongside suspected al Qaeda fighters.
The message Riyadh sent was simple enough — Shiite activists are equivalent to terrorists in the Kingdom’s calculus, and this predictably engendered outrage all across the world, especially in majority-Shiite Iran.
The resultant protests, some of which regretfully turned violent and targeted Saudi diplomatic facilities, were cited as ‘proof’ of Iran’s ‘aggression’ against Saudi Arabia and became the publicly presentable reason for why Riyadh cut off all diplomatic and economic ties with Tehran.
The timing of this provocation couldn’t be more suspect, since it convincingly appears as though the Saudis staged it at precisely the moment when Iran was expected to be reintegrated into the global economy. The UNSC sanctions are widely expected to be lifted by the end of the month or early February, and it looks like Saudi Arabia wants to spoil the event by provoking an anti-Iranian maelstrom that puts pressure on the EU to reconsider its planned energy and infrastructure investments in the country.
Ultimately, France and Germany’s economic engagement with Iran will come down to whether or not the US gives them the approval to proceed at their expected pace, and considering how successful Washington was in forcing Brussels to cut its preexisting and very profitable ties with Moscow, it can’t be precluded that it could do the same in obstructing unestablished and still forthcoming deals with Tehran.
Of relevance, the US is prepping a new round of unilateral sanctions against Iran due to the latter’s missile tests in October, indicating a shift in strategic attitude towards the country that strongly suggests a corresponding European reaction.
Another event that needs to be brought up in the context of Saudi Arabia’s latest anti-Iranian stunt is that the next round of the Syrian Reconciliation Dialogue is supposed to begin by the end of the month. Various terrorist groups (deemed “moderate rebels” by the mainstream media) already convened in Riyadh in advance of this forthcoming summit in order to receive consultations, so it’s a given that the Saudis hold major influence over an array of on-the-ground militants there.
Curiously, Turkish President Erdogan paid a visit to the Kingdom right before the unannounced execution and shortly after the terrorist gathering, so connecting the anti-Syrian plot points, it looks like the Turkey-Saudi-Qatari bloc of destabilizers plans to undermine both the Geneva intra-Syrian and Vienna extra-Syrian peace talks. As regards the former, they may now order their radical Islamist proxies into making unreasonable demands in order to sabotage the dialogue process, and per the latter, they might threaten to temporarily suspend their participation if Iran isn’t kicked out.
The Saudis’ War on Yemen has been a dismal failure, yet their leadership is still obsessed with continuing the conflict. They hope that their recent anti-Iranian ruse can prompt the “anti-terror” coalition to increase their supportive contribution to the theater under the guise of “countering Iran”.
The reader should be reminded that it’s less of an “anti-terrorist” organization and more like a quasi-legitimized international mercenary marketplace, so what the Saudis really want is a semi-plausible reasoning for contracting more fighters into the field.
The end effect of all of this is to transform the “anti-terrorist” coalition into an anti-Shiite one and institutionalize militant Muslim sectarianism.
By Andrew Korybko
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of AMCnews.