Kuwait Recalls Ambassador to Iran over Saudi Embassy Attack

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Mohammadreza Nadimi/ISNA via AP

The government of Kuwait has become the latest to downgrade its diplomatic relations with Iran after a mob burned down the Saudi Arabian embassy in Tehran following the execution of Shiite cleric Nimr Baqir al-Nimr.

In a statement on its state-run news agency, the Kuwaiti government announced that it would be calling home its ambassador and diplomatic team from Tehran, but not expelling the Iranian diplomatic team from Kuwait. The government cited a “flagrant breach of international norms” regarding the burning down of the Saudi embassy as the reason for their retreat from Tehran.

The state-run Saudi Press Agency elaborated that “Kuwait sharply condemns attacks by Iranian demonstrators on the Saudi Embassy in Tehran, and the Saudi Consulate in Mashhad, an official source at Kuwait’s Foreign Ministry said on Sunday.” It used similar language in citing Kuwaiti officials describing the attack as “a flagrant violation of Vienna Convention.”

Relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran deteriorated rapidly this weekend following the execution of al-Nimr, a Shiite cleric and opponent of the Sunni Saudi royals. He was executed along with 46 other al-Qaeda-linked terrorists after being charged with similar crimes.

The Iranian government condemned the execution, and on Saturday, a mob firebombed the Saudi embassy in Tehran and ultimately burned it down.

In response, Saudi Arabia has cut diplomatic ties with Iran completely and expelled all Iranian diplomats from Riyadh, as well as halting all air traffic between the two countries as a response to “Iranian aggression.”

Kuwait joins a number of Sunni nations in condemning the Iranian attack on the Saudi embassy and cutting diplomatic ties. The governments of Bahrain and Sudan both recalled their ambassadors and gave the Iranian diplomats in their countries an ultimatum to leave. The United Arab Emirates “downgraded” its diplomatic relations with Iran.

Other nations expressed displeasure with the events unfolding without taking action yet. Egypt’s Foreign Minister, for example, condemned Iran’s actions in not protecting the Saudi embassy as “unacceptable” and asserted that Iran’s scolding over the al-Nimr execution was tantamount to “intervening in the kingdom’s internal affairs.” The Egyptian foreign minister visited Saudi Arabia to discuss regional disputes as recently as December 30.

In addition to the actions of governments, Shiite protesters worldwide have condemned al-Nimr’s execution. Thousands of Shiites took to the streets of northern India to protest his death. In Bahrain, tensions between the Sunni government and the Shiite majority population grew to such an extent that the government used water cannons to control the crowds in the capital.

The government of Turkey, which has ties to both countries, is demanding a diplomatic resolution to the dispute. “Both countries should leave these tensions behind as soon as possible. The region cannot carry such tension,” Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş said Monday.

The Iranian government is denying any involvement in the burning down of the Saudi embassy. The New York Times quotes Brig. Gen. Mohsen Kazemeini of the Muhammad Rasulullah Corps, a high-ranking Iranian military officer, as stating that the embassy attack was “totally wrong” and “an ugly, unjustifiable act.” This condemnation is stronger than that from President Hassan Rouhani, whom The New York Times notes issued a statement on Monday noting that no acts of reprisal could “cover up the crime of beheading a religious leader.”