Since Saudi Arabia, a Sunni majority country, condemned to death and beheaded Shia cleric Nimr – al – Nimr, relations between the two countries have been tense.
Most Shia nations have struggled to accept the death of what they considered a man of faith to follow and revere. They view the sentence as a clear attack to the Shia community. Protests have been held in many countries, Bahrain included.
Iran, arguably the most powerful of the Shia majority countries, economically and politically speaking , was the first to express its criticism towards the sentence.
The cleric, a Shia faithful based in Saudi Arabia, had issues with local authorities years ago. In 2011 he became popular for his strong criticism of the Riyadh government.
It’s important to remember that in Saudi Arabia many people, government officials included, consider themselves Sunnis but in reality follow the Wahhabi line of thought, which is more strict and above all considers Shiites heretical, rather than a minority. Sunnis and Shiites have been in conflict since the Shiites ever existed, but the countries involved in this controversy are powerful opposites and the consequences of a conflict could be catastrophic for the always troubled Middle Eastern region.
The West would be impacted as well. Just as the US and Iran settled for a nuclear deal, this happens. Saudis are US allies, and this stings for America. Good diplomats around the world will need to keep things stable.
Speaking of diplomacy, an interesting country offered to mediate between the two: Putin’s Russia. Now, if the word diplomacy could ever be paired next to Russia in a sentence , this looks like the right time.
So, can Russia do anything good in here? Hopefully yes. But more importantly, how will things develop? What will be the exact consequences, even if the tensions remain diplomatic and not physical? What does this mean for the West, monetary and politically wise?
Way too many questions, very few answers to give, unfortunately. Emma Graham-Harrison of the Guardian noted, “The defiance and anger in both capitals will not fade soon but, while neither government is eager to step back from the brink, both know a direct military confrontation would be ruinous, bloody and asymmetrical. Riyadh has a far more impressive arsenal, accumulated through years of multi billion-dollar purchases from western arms manufacturers”.
We can clearly attest that a direct military confrontation between the two is highly unlikely. Even mere political tensions are still dangerous to most countries of the world from West to East, but things might get better so that everyone can keep their interests safe and sound.
The religious differences could bring irrational decisions and incite terrorist militants to attack from both sides. The ones to suffer, as Harrison points out, would be the allies of the two nations, probably the Syrians and Yemenis fighting their proxy wars. The outcome of this is still uncertain. The hope is that the US and Russia can ease tensions and extinguish the fire before it becomes too hard to handle.
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