Thursday, January 07, 2016

Somalia Severs Ties With Iran, Stands By Saudi Arabia Amid Regional Tensions
01/07/16 AT 7:47 AM
Mogadishu, Somalia

Somalia severed ties with Iran Thursday, days after Saudi Arabia announced it was cutting off all diplomatic relations with Tehran.

Somalia announced Thursday that it has severed ties with Iran, according to local media. The East African nation joins a growing number of countries, led by Saudi Arabia, to cut off diplomatic relations with Tehran amid escalating tensions.

Saudi Arabia announced Monday it was severing ties with Iran following an attack on its embassy in the Iranian capital, Tehran, on Saturday during protests against the execution of a Shiite cleric. Since then, Sudan, Bahrain, Djibouti and now Somalia have followed suit. The Somali government on Wednesday condemned the attack on the Saudi Embassy, saying the incident “breaks the international treaty on diplomatic relations signed in Vienna in 1961,” according to Shabelle Media Network in Mogadishu.

Already shaky, Riyadh-Tehran tensions took a turn for the worse when Saudi Arabia beheaded prominent Shiite cleric Nimr Baqr al-Nimr on charges of inciting his followers to violence. Human rights groups said the cleric was executed for his political opposition to Saudi Arabia's Sunni kingdom. Al-Nimr was among 47 prisoners who were executed in Riyadh on Saturday, according to the Associated Press.

Officials from both countries have defended their positions. Jaberi Ansari, a spokesman for Iran's Foreign Ministry, accused Saudi Arabia of "looking for some excuses to pursue its own unwise policies to further tension in the region," according to CNN. The spat has caused some nations to choose sides, while world powers weigh in.

The regional struggle between Saudi Arabia and its rival Iran, a predominately Shiite nation, for political and religious influence has played out for years. The two Middle East powers are supporting opposite sides in Syria's civil war, and Riyadh blames Tehran for the conflict in Yemen.

The Houthis, an Iran-backed Shiite rebel group, seized the Yemeni capital in September 2014, forcing the Saudi-backed, Sunni-led government into exile. Saudi Arabia and its allies launched an air campaign in late March targeting the Houthis in Yemen. The Shiite rebels currently control much of the country’s north. The war has pitted Saudi Arabia against Iran in a battle for Middle East supremacy, while inflaming Sunni-Shia tensions.

Iran on Thursday accused the Saudi-led coalition of bombing its embassy in Yemen's capital of Sanaa. The Foreign Ministry said Saudi jets "deliberately" struck the site in an airstrike that wounded staff, according to Al Jazeera.

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