Our media led by BBC try to simplify the latest diplomatic crisis in the Middle East – which led to severing of diplomatic relations between Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Iran ( with two other countries following the Saudis action)- into Shia-Sunni sectarian rivalry resulting from the execution of Iran backed Shia cleric. This is a load of nonsense which leads to misunderstanding and misleading public opinion. It is far more complicated as many forces who adhere to the Shia faith (Morocco shia sects and those in North Africa nd Sudan) back KSA, while trends and forces who are devote Sunnis are backing Iran against the Saudis (Turkey for example is Sunni, so are Hamas and many Palestinian factions as well as the Muslim Brotherhood are all Sunni hardliners but are against Saudi Arabia especially in Yemen but are also against Assad in Syria.
Regardless of our (mine personally) opposition to Judicial Murder known as capital punishment (death penalty) , the latest hysterical reporting in our media was triggered by the public execution of scores ( almost 50) Saudi nationals a few days ago. Unless you make your own effort to search, you’d be forgiven for thinking those executed in KSA were just rounded up from their homes and executed. BBC seldom mentioned that one of those executed was a terrorist tried and found guilty in 2012 ( and appeal rejected in 2014) of murdering of a BBC cameraman and attempt murder of BBC security correspondent Frank Gardener in ambush in Riyadh nearly 10 years ago. (The Daily Telegraph covered it in depth on Saturday edition). In short those were already on death row. Regardless of what we think of a judicial system of a foreign country, they were tried and condemned and had their appeals rejected over the past four or five years. .
The coverage also misleads the public in make it look like just rivalry with Iran. But the crisis is deeper (by Monday 4 January morning – Bahrain and Sudan severed relations with Iran while the United Arab Emirate downgraded its diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic).
KSA see Iran as a direct threat both internally, on the borders and regionally. Iran controls Hezbollah a terrorist organisation (although popular in Lebanon though generous welfare services funded by Iran) where KSA have political, economic and financial interest. They back Assad regime and cause trouble through Shia community in Bahrain. They Iranian are funding arming and directly taking part insurgency in Yemen on the borders of Saudi Arabia where the latter is part of coalition force backing the legitimate government there. In short Saudis see Iran’s activities as threat to their national interests. There is also pressure from Saudi internal public opinion in a country where the government rules by national consent among various trends and tribes in a complex society in a vast country.
Those points were made by sir John Jenkins ( until recently HM ambassador to Saudi Arabia until February 2015 and now head of Middle East & North Africa programme at IISS international Institute of Strategic Studies) on BBC radio 4 Today this morning (Monday 4) he also said there were far more executions without trial in Iran than in KSA ( which all were after their judicial system court hearings) , but he wasn’t given time to continue his excellent (information and facts based analysis ) because it sails way off the BBC orthodoxy charts ( Saudis are bad, like all oil rich gulf state so we must not sell them arms act) preferring to go to BBC own hackette simplistic analysis of Shia V Sunni ( ( eventhough it is not like that and sir john tried to correct it).. but it also has to be seen within domestic public opinion pressure on Saudi government in wake of wave of terror attacks ( the seasoned diplomat reminded BBC that Saudis are the largest social media debaters and users in the region and their government takes their debate as public opinion the way we take polls here ) … there was domestic pressure .. those people executed were already on death row,( tried and appeals held etc.. regardless of what we think of a foreign country’s judicial system but this is not the issue we are discussing here) some go back four or five years .. and the decision to bring all of them at one go ( instead of the normal gradual executions over a couple of years or so) was to satisfy a lynching mob like public opinion which makes little distinctions by al-Qaeda/ISIL inspired terror bombs or Iran/Hizbollah inspired violent protest/mutiny/or calls for session of shia concentrated eastern provinces (which Saudi public opinion believe to be directed from Iran)- The Saudi public opinion also see Iran’s intervention in Yemen as threat to their national interest the way the late Colonel Nasser intervention in Yemen in 1960s was threat to them and the Saudis intervened.. Saudi sources also say they have evidence that Iranian revolutionary guard corpse was directing the hardline protestors and claim the attack on their Teheran embassy was a naive attempt to destroy the evidence.