World powers call for calm as tensions escalate between Saudi Arabia and Iran

World Today

Followers of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr burn an effigy of King Salman of Saudi Arabia as they hold posters of Sheik Nimr al-Nimr during a demonstration in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016. Demonstrations are also being called for in the predominantly Shiite southern cities of Najaf and Basra, after Saudi Arabia executed a prominent opposition Shiite cleric convicted of terrorism charges, sparking anger in Iran and among Shiites across the region. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

World powers are calling for calm as tensions escalated in the Middle East following the storming of Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Tehran in response to the kingdom’s execution of prominent Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, along with 46 others on Saturday.

Iran’s supreme leader condemned the execution. Monday, its foreign ministry accused Saudi Arabia of using the embassy attack as a reason to deepen sectarian divides. In addition to severing diplomatic ties, Saudi Arabia has also halted air travel with Iran, which could prevent millions of faithful Muslims from attending the holy pilgrimage known as the hajj later this year.

CCTV America’s Jessica Stone reports:

Saudi Arabia\'s allies cut or downgrade Iran ties

World powers are calling for calm as tensions escalated in the Middle East following the storming of Saudi Arabia's embassy in Tehran in response to the kingdom's execution of prominent Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, along with 46 others on Saturday. Iran's supreme leader condemned the execution. Monday, its foreign ministry accused Saudi Arabia of using the embassy attack as a reason to deepen sectarian divides. In addition to severing diplomatic ties, Saudi Arabia has also halted air travel with Iran, which could prevent millions of faithful Muslims from attending the holy pilgrimage known as the hajj later this year. CCTV America's Jessica Stone reports.

It appears that the calls for calm have had little impact so far. In response to its embassy being attacked, Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic ties with Iran on Monday, giving its diplomats 48 hours to leave the country. Saudi Arabia also says all flights to and from Iran are cancelled.

Saudi’s allies Bahrain and Sudan followed suit later in the day, announcing that they too were severing ties with Iran. The UAE, on the other hand, announced that it would be downgrading ties with Tehran.

Shiite-majority Iran and Sunni-majority Saudi Arabia have long been regional competitors, and have backed opposing forces in a number of proxy wars and regional conflicts, from Yemen to Syria.

Amidst rising tensions, China, on Monday, called on all parties involved in the scenario to maintain calm and show restraint.

Chinese Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that “China is paying close attention to the developments, and hopes all relevant parties can strengthen communication and cooperation in anti-terrorism, while adding that the security and dignity of diplomats and missions should be guaranteed.”

She further called on both sides to properly resolve disputes through dialogue and consultation in order to maintain the region’s peace and stability.

The U.S., Saudi Arabia’s long-time ally, has encouraged diplomatic engagement and called for the leaders in the region to take “affirmative steps” to reduce tensions, Reuters quoted an official of President Barack Obama’s administration as saying.

The U.S. State Department has also urged Saudi Arabia to respect and protect human rights and said the execution of al-Nimr “risks exacerbating sectarian tensions at a time when they urgently need to be reduced.”

A U.S. official said Monday that Secretary of State John Kerry had spoken with Iran’s foreign minister. The official Saudi Press Agency reported Kerry had also spoken with the Saudi crown prince. One U.S. official said Kerry’s message was to urge calm and warn against overreaction that some fear could lead to a sectarian war.

U.S. officials said the administration is loath to insert itself into the row between Riyadh and Tehran but wants to ensure the viability of the fight against the Islamic State group, nascent attempts to end Syria’s civil war and the Iran nuclear deal.

Meanwhile, German government spokesman Steffen Seibert told a regular news conference on Monday that his country has urged the Saudi Arabia and Iran to engage in dialogue.

Russia, in fact, has even offered to act as an intermediary to help settle the dispute, RIA reported on Monday, citing an anonymous Foreign Ministry source.


Mohammad Marandi on the tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia

CCTV America’s Mike Walter interviewed Mohammad Marandi, a professor at Tehran University in Iran, about the current tensions.

Mohammad Marandi on the tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia

CCTV America's Mike Walter interviewed Mohammad Marandi, a professor at Tehran University in Iran, about the current tensions.


Fahad Nazer describes recent strained relations

Mike Walter also interviewed Fahad Nazer, a senior political analyst at JTG, a government and commercial analysis company, about the recent strained relations.

Fahad Nazer on s recent history of strained relations

Mike Walter also interviewed Fahad Nazer, a senior political analyst at JTG, a government and commercial analysis company, about the recent strained relations.


Michael Czinkota on impact of Iran-Saudi tensions on oil prices

CCTV America’s Owen Fairclough also interviewed Michael Czinkota, a professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, about the impact of the latest tensions on oil prices.

Michael Czinkota on impact of Iran-Saudi tensions on oil prices

CCTV America's Owen Fairclough also interviewed Michael Czinkota, a professor at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business, about the impact of the latest tensions on oil prices.