Iran predicts “divine vengeance” after Saudis execute Shi’ite cleric

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says Saudi Arabian politicians will face divine retribution for the death of Shi’ite cleric Nimr al-Nimr.

TEHRAN, IRAN (JANUARY 3, 2016) (PRESS TV) – Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Sunday (January 3) that politicians in Saudi Arabia would face divine retribution for the execution of a leading Shi’ite cleric.

Saudi Arabia executed Nimr al-Nimr and three other Shi’ites alongside dozens of al Qaeda members on Saturday (January 2), signalling it would not tolerate attacks by either Sunni jihadists or members of the Shi’ite minority seeking equality.

“Killing a knowledgeable man, who promoted virtue and prevented vice, and had religious zeal, is certainly a crime, a great crime. It is also a mistake because the [spilled] blood will undoubtedly bring [divine] retribution,” Khamenei said in a speech aired by local breadcaster Press TV, criticising Saudi Arabia for the second straight day.

“Saudi politicians, rulers and policymakers should have no doubt that there will be divine vengeance for this blood. God almighty will not pardon those who spill the blood of the innocent,” he added.

Iranian protesters stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran early on Sunday smashing furniture and starting fires and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani condemned the execution as “inhuman”.

Strong rhetoric from Tehran was matched by Iran’s Shi’ite allies across the region, with Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Lebanese militia Hezbollah, describing the execution as “a message of blood”.

Nimr, the most vocal critic of the dynasty among the Shi’ite minority, had come to be seen as a leader of the sect’s younger activists, who had tired of the failure of older, more measured leaders to achieve equality with Sunnis.

Tensions between revolutionary, mainly Shi’ite Iran and Saudi Arabia’s conservative Sunni monarchy had already run high for years as they backed opposing forces in wars and political conflicts across the Middle East, usually along sectarian lines.