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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 8-Jan-2016
8-Jan-16 World View -- Iran struggles to recover from its firebombing of Saudi embassy

Web Log - January, 2016

8-Jan-16 World View -- Iran struggles to recover from its firebombing of Saudi embassy

Desperate Chinese officials remove stock market circuit breakers

This morning's key headlines from

Numerous countries end diplomatic relations with Iran after Saudi embassy firebombing

Shia Muslim Houthis hold posters of Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr outside the Saudi embassy in Sanaa, Yemen (AP)
Shia Muslim Houthis hold posters of Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr outside the Saudi embassy in Sanaa, Yemen (AP)

After Saudi Arabia last Saturday executed Shia cleric Mohammad Baqir Nimr al-Nimr, along with 46 other prisoners, on terrorism charges, international moral outrage appeared to be on the side of Iran. Officials in many countries oppose capital punishment as a matter of principle, and the Shia world was particularly shocked that al-Nimr was executed along with 46 alleged Sunni terrorists, infuriating Iran by appearing to make Shia terrorism equivalent to Sunni terrorism.

But the actions of Iranian protesters to storm and firebomb Saudi Arabia's embassy in Tehran, followed by violent protests outside the Saudi consulate in Mashhad in northwestern Iran, have turned much of the moral outrage around, in favor of the Saudis. These actions were apparently permitted by Iranian officials at the time they occurred, but now they're a major embarrassment to Iran, especially because Iran has a history attacking other nations' embassies in Tehran. The Saudi execution of al-Nimr may have been unfortunate on many levels, but it was perfectly legal in international law for a country to charge one of its own citizens with a crime (terrorism), try him in a court of law, and execute him if found guilty. Indeed, Iran does the same thing, and in the 2009 it massacred many peaceful protesters in the streets with no due process at all.

But attacks on embassies are not only major violations of international law, but are considered intolerable by most countries on all sides of the issue, because no country wants to see its own embassies at risk.

Thus, Saudi Arabia cut its diplomatic ties with Iran, and other Sunni Muslim countries, including Bahrain and Sudan did the same, while United Arab Emirates (UAE) downgraded its relations with Iran. Then Kuwait and Djibouti also followed by cutting relations. Significantly, Bahrain is the home of the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, while Djibouti, in the horn of Africa, is home to the US's only military base in Africa. Qatar has recalled its ambassador without cutting ties completely.

On Thursday, Somalia also cut diplomatic ties with Iran. The reason given was "in response to the Republic of Iran’s continuous interference in Somalia’s internal affairs," without mentioning Saudi Arabia. Together, Djibouti and Somalia control access to the Red Sea across from Yemen, which is strategically important to Iran.

If Shia Muslims had simply peacefully demonstrated against the Saudis for executing al-Nimr, then none of these diplomatic terminations would have occurred. The embassy attack has changed the entire diplomatic structure of the Mideast, and raised Sunni-Shia tensions much than just the execution of al-Nimr would have done. International Business Times and KUNA - Kuwait News Agency and Mail and Guardian Africa

Iran seeks to pass the blame for the Saudi embassy firebombing

Iran still celebrates the anniversary of the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran every year and refers to it as the second revolution. Since then, Iranians have attacked several embassies in Tehran — including those of Kuwait in 1987, Saudi Arabia in 1988, Denmark in 2006 and Britain in 2011. Evidently, Iranian officials have never punished the attackers in these cases.

Some of those attacking the Saudi Embassy and starting fires took selfies and published them on social media, indicating that they too expected to be treated as heroes rather than criminals.

This time, however, with so many countries ending diplomatic relations with Iran, the firebombing of the Saudi embassy has become a major diplomatic crisis. This is at a time when Republicans in Congress are headed for a showdown with President Obama over sanctions related to the Iran nuclear deal, and the embassy firebombing gives them ammunition. Getting America sanctions is probably Iran's most important diplomatic objective right now.

At first, Iran's Revolutionary Guards immediately blamed Israel, while Lebanon's Shia militia Hezbollah blamed the United States, on the grounds that the US had "moral responsibility" for the execution of al-Nimr, which presumably justified the embassy firebombing.

Mostafa Pour Mohammadi, Iran's Justice Minister, referred to the threat of “enemy influence” in Iran and stated that the embassy attack “could have been designed and supported by infiltrators.” He also condemned the embassy attack itself, stating that it was carried out by “a limited group of people,” and added, “We must not allow emotions to overcome thought, for the result will certainly not be in our interest."

One particularly bizarre twist is that Iran on Thursday accused the Saudis of hitting its embassy in Sanaa, the capital city of Yemen, with an airstrike. However, news photos from Sanaa show no damage to the embassy.

But Iran's president Hassan Rouhani, who is part of Iran's "moderate" camp, has taken more direct action. He first said with regard to the al-Nimr execution, "But the Iranian people should not allow this to become an excuse for rogue individuals & groups to commit illegal acts & damage Iran's image."

On Wednesday, Rouhani asked Iran's judiciary to urgently prosecute the people who attacked the Saudi Embassy in Tehran:

"By punishing the attackers and those who orchestrated this obvious offense, we should put an end once and forever to such damage and insults to Iran's dignity and national security."

Iranian police have already announced the arrest of 50 people for the firebombing. In previous cases, such rioters have simply been set free within a few days without facing any charges. This time, they may have to stay in jail a few days longer, until the American sanctions are lifted. Quartz and AEI Iran Tracker and Al-Jazeera/Reuters and AP

Desperate Chinese officials remove stock market circuit breakers

Twice this week, on Monday and Thursday, China's Shanghai stock market shares plunged 7%, before trading was halted by a so-called "circuit breaker" rule that stops trading at 7% to prevent a further plunge.

It had been thought that the circuit break rule would halt a full-scale panic, and perhaps it did. But now the circuit breaker is being blamed for two plunges. The reasoning is that as stocks began to fall, investors decided that they had to sell fast before the circuit breaker kicked in, and that accelerated sales.

China has been desperately trying to find a way to stop its huge stock market bubble from imploding. Friday's new rule change du jour is to completely eliminate the circuit breakers on Friday, to see how that works.

After the Friday morning opening in Shanghai, the stock market has been extremely volatile, first rising 2%, then falling 4%, then back up again to a 2% gain. CNN Money

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 8-Jan-16 World View -- Iran struggles to recover from its firebombing of Saudi embassy thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (8-Jan-2016) Permanent Link
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