Saudi Arabia and a number of its allies have taken diplomatic action against Iran after the Saudi embassy in Tehran was attacked amid a row over the execution of a Shia Muslim cleric.
Saudi, Bahrain and Sudan have all severed relations with Iran, and the UAE has downgraded its diplomatic team.
Saudi Arabia and Iran are key powers in the region and back opposing sides in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen.
In a press conference yesterday Saudi foreign minister Adel Al-Jubeir called Tehran a regional menace for its “smuggling of arms and explosives and its previous harboring of Al-Qaida militants.”
He said the aggressive statements of the Iranian regime encouraged the attacks on Saudi missions, adding that Iran has a history of supporting terrorism, citing its support to the “bloody regime of Bashar al Assad.”
He called on the international community to review Iranian intransigence, stressing that “all options are open for us to deter Iran.”
Earlier, a ministry spokesman accused Iran of sponsoring terror and undermining regional stability.
“The Iranian regime is the last regime in the world that could accuse others of supporting terrorism, considering that (Iran) is a state that sponsors terror, and is condemned by the UN and many countries,” he said in a statement.
“Iran’s regime has no shame as it rants on human rights matters, even after it executed hundreds of Iranians last year without a clear legal basis,” said the statement.
Meanwhile, Bahrain, which is ruled by a Sunni Muslim king but has a majority Shia population, gave Iranian diplomats 48 hours to leave the country.
It accused Iran of “increasing, flagrant and dangerous meddling” in the internal affairs of Gulf and Arab states. It said the attack on the Saudi embassy was part of a “very dangerous pattern of sectarian policies that should be confronted… to preserve security and stability in the entire region”.
Bahrain, which hosts the US Navy’s 5th Fleet, has frequently accused Iran of supporting a low-level “Shia insurgency” that flared following the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011.
And a Sudan foreign ministry statement read: “In response to the barbaric attacks on the Saudi Arabian embassy in Tehran and its consulate in Mashhad… Sudan announces the immediate severing of ties with the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
The United Arab Emirates said it was downgrading its diplomatic representation in Tehran and will cut the number of Iranian diplomats in the country.
As for Iran, its First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri has called on Saudi officials to stop taking “hasty” and “irrational” measures, in the wake of Riyadh’s decision to sever diplomatic ties with Tehran.
Speaking in the Iranian capital of Tehran on Monday, Jahangiri said Saudi Arabia, not Iran, will be the one to suffer as a result of the severance of relations.
Tehran said the anti-Saudi protests were “largely peaceful” but a group of people scaled the walls of the consulate in Mashhad while incendiary devices were hurled at the embassy in Tehran.
Some 50 people were detained over the violation of the diplomatic perimeters.
The execution of Sheikh Nimr, which was announced on Saturday, has drawn strong condemnations from governments and human rights groups all across the world.
Reacting to the Saudi decision to cut diplomatic ties with Iran, Jahangiri said, “I advise the Saudi leaders to stop these subversive, hasty, illogical, emotional acts that are marked by mismanagement.”
He said that, despite Saudi Arabia’s destructive policies in recent years, Iran has treated Riyadh with restraint. “You, too, should learn this [kind of] behavior.”
“Just look what chaos you have created in the region over the past couple of years,” the Iranian first vice president said. “What came of your move to create terrorist groups other than plunging the region into disarray and the plundering of the properties of the people of Syria and Iraq and elsewhere?”
He also censured the Saudi war on Yemen, and Riyadh’s military intervention in Bahrain, which came in March 2011 in an attempt to help the Manama regime suppress anti-government protests there.
Jahangiri stressed that the people of Saudi Arabia have always been respected by the Islamic Republic, and emphasized, “We don’t want Saudi Arabia harmed, and [that’s why] we advise them.”
Sheikh Nimr, a critic of the Riyadh regime, was shot by Saudi police and arrested in 2012 in Qatif, which was the scene of peaceful anti-regime demonstrations at the time.
He was charged with instigating unrest and undermining the kingdom’s security. He had rejected the charges as baseless