UAE, Bahrain, Sudan join Saudi in curbing ties to Iran

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Bahrain and Sudan on Jan. 4 followed Saudi Arabia’s lead in cutting diplomatic ties with Iran. United Arab Emirates said it would also downgrade its ties to Teheran.

The escalating tensions between Saudi and Iran came after Riyadh’s execution of a Shi’ite Muslim cleric. Iranian protesters stormed the Saudi embassy in Teheran on Jan. 3 as supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed “divine vengeance” for the execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, an outspoken foe of the Saudi royal family.

Smoke rises as Iranian protesters set fire to the Saudi embassy in Teheran on Jan. 3.
Smoke rises as Iranian protesters set fire to the Saudi embassy in Teheran on Jan. 3.

“The kingdom, in light of these realities, announces the cutting of diplomatic relations with Iran and requests the departure of delegates of diplomatic missions of the embassy and consulate and offices related to it within 48 hours. The ambassador has been summoned to notify them,” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said at a Jan. 4 news conference in Riyadh.

Bahrain on Jan. 4 said it is cutting diplomatic ties with Iran and called on all Iranian diplomats to leave Bahrain within 48 hours.

Bahrain News Agency (BNA) said that “after the cowardly acts inflicted on our brethren at the Saudi embassy in Teheran and the consulate in Mashhad – which represent a flagrant violation of intentional treaties and grave sectarian policies – we cannot be silent about nor accept [an Iranian diplomatic presence].”

The UAE announced on Jan. 4 it was downgrading diplomatic ties with Teheran and would limit the number of Iranian diplomats in the country, state news agency WAM reported.

“The UAE has decided to reduce the level of diplomatic representation with the Islamic Republic of Iran to the level of a charge d’affaires and to reduce the number of Iranian diplomats in the country,” WAM said.

Iran’s foreign ministry said the Saudis were using the attack on their embassy in Teheran as an excuse to further inflame tensions.

“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 Jan. 4.

Jubeir accused Iranian authorities of being complicit in the attack on the embassy, and said that Saudi diplomats in the embassy sought help from the Iranian foreign ministry when the building was stormed, but their requests were ignored three times.