Saudi Arabian Executions Raise Questions

Hillary Clinton became the first presidential candidate to publicly respond to the Saudi Arabian executions that took place last week. Any hope of a coalition solution in Syria got a rude setback with the new outbreak of open hostilities between the predominantly Sunni Saudis and predominantly Shia Iranians.

Saudi Arabia's executions of 47 Shia prisoners included Shia Muslim cleric Nimr al-Nimr. His arrest and execution caused diplomatic tensions between Sunni and Shia governments. Al-Nimr was popular with the youth and said that he believed that Shia ayatollahs would not promote violence and "murder in the name of God". He also supported the idea of free elections and was critical of the Saudi Arabian government. His execution sparked days of protests in both Iraq and Iran causing Saudi Arabia as well as its three allies that include United Arab Emirates, to cut ties with Iran. The United Arab Emirates is currently home to hundreds of thousands of Iranians.

Protestors of the executions threw Molotov cocktails into the Saudi embassy in Iran as protests were held in various cities around the world including London, Tehran, Chicago and Toronto. Peaceful demonstrations also occurred in Iraq, Turkey, Greece, the US, Australia, India, Lebanon, and other Middle Eastern countries.

Human Rights Watch said the executions further strain Saudi Arabia's troubling human rights record since al-Nimr was convicted in a grossly unfair trial. The new spat between Saudi Arabia and Iran could damage the Obama administration's fragile peace efforts in Syria while also slowing the fight against the Islamic State. It could also spur more unrest in countries such as Bahrain where sectarian tensions already run high.