A number of Saudi Arabia’s allies have joined the kingdom in taking diplomatic action against Iran, following a row between the two countries over the execution of a prominent Shia Muslim cleric.
The death of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr prompted an attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran, and similar protests by Shia communities elsewhere in the Middle East. He and 46 others were executed on Saturday after being convicted of terrorism-related offences.
BBC’s Chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet joined Jon McComb to discuss the latest developments.
More political than religious
Doucet says this is a secular split between the two branches of Islam, the majority Sunnis and the minority Shiites.
“But, in time in which we live it is predominantly a political battle. It’s cultural between the Arabs and the Persians.”
She says the leaders of Saudi Arabia are playing an increasingly important role in the region, and they are growing more concerned that Iranians are one of the leading players when it comes to Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and Syria.
“When they broke off diplomatic ties they accused the Iranians of destabilizing behavior. But if you talk to the Iranians they say ‘we’re not destabilizing these countries, we’ve been asked to come in.'”
Doucet says it has resulted in a deep distrust about each other’s ambitions and interests in neighbouring countries.