Nimr Execution Is Latest Unforced Error for Saudi Arabia

Nimr Execution Is Latest Unforced Error for Saudi Arabia
An Iranian woman holds up a poster of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr at a protest, Tehran, Iran, Jan. 4, 2016 (AP photo by Vahid Salemi).

The shocking news that Saudi Arabia executed 47 people over the weekend, including Shiite cleric and opposition figure Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, got the new year off to a tense start in the Persian Gulf and the Middle East. The executions have already caused a worsening of Saudi-Iran relations and foreshadow heightened sectarian-driven tensions across the region. But there are other consequences as well.

Forty-seven convicted criminals, most of them charged with terrorism by a special court created in 2008, were executed by beheading and firing squad on Jan. 2 in multiple locations in the kingdom. Most were Sunni radicals, affiliated with al-Qaida and committed to overthrowing the Saudi regime and freeing the region of the Saudis’ Western security partners. They were convicted of crimes dating back a decade or more, including attacks on American and other Western facilities.

But that was lost in the spontaneous outrage in the Shiite world over the fact that four of the executed prisoners were Shiite. Most prominent among them was Nimr, a critic of the regime who was arrested in 2012 and charged with sedition and terrorism for his activism in the kingdom’s eastern provinces, where Saudi Arabia’s Shiite minority principally resides.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.