To start off the New Year, Saudi Arabia executed over forty people they were holding as prisoners over ‘terrorism’ charges. One of these prisoners was the Shia Cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.
This is the same Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr who has been the subject of much of the international outrage around the world for sometime over his unjust arrest, who has been arrested on frankly thin charges of inciting violence.
This is just one man’s death, but it has already changed the face of the Middle East. After the Saudi embassy was attacked in Iran and the Iranian government vocalizing their disappointment, Bahrain, UAE and Sudan have joined Saudi Arabia in cutting off ties with the Iranian government. News outlets all around the war are tracing this back to a sectarian war. But is this the case?
Saudi Arabia has been responsible for many human rights violations, and the killing of al-Nimr just adds to an extensive list. From the war in Yemen, which has become a disaster for Yemeni civilians, to the unjust punishments of Mohammed al-Nimr (who was arrested and will be publicly crucified for protesting) and Raif Badawi (arrested for insulting the country), Saudi Arabia has to answer for a lot of crimes in the past year alone. Now this is not absolving any of the other countries involved of their crimes, but this is just to contextualize the issue.
Now before you begin to think that one death is nothing, remember that it only took one death to launch the entirety of Europe and the rest of the world into the First World War. The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand may not have been the singular cause, but launched the world into a nationalistic brawl.
This is only the start, but is it the start of a sectarian war? If anything were to happen, it would be from the rise of tensions between both Iran and Saudi Arabia. If this were to escalate, which is too tough to tell at this point, it could potentially lead to a drastic change in the entirety of the Middle East. That is one thing that is certain.