The Saudi-Iranian beheading fiasco, and the oil price

The Sheikh Nimr execution in Saudi Arabia sparked massive tensions with Iran, or so it seems. Iran analyst Potkin Azarmehr says it was a manufactured crisis to spike the falling oil price

Sheikh Nimr
Potkin Azarmehr
On 28 January 2016 09:19

In the old days, before the media went digital, newspapers had at least one full day to study the details of the stories they were going to publish. Now, such is the pressure of being the first to publish a story and meet the shorter deadlines on the web that often just the headlines and the superficial aspects of the story make the news.

By the time more information is revealed, the story is not news anymore. Some specific niche news analysis outlets may discuss the more in-depth aspects, but for most working people, their limited leisure time does not allow them such luxury. The net result is that the average news readers are badly informed about current affairs, yet increasingly more opinionated.

One such recent incident was the execution of Sheikh Nimr and the Iranian reaction that led to the ransacking of the Saudi embassy in Tehran and the breakdown in diplomatic ties between the two countries, already deeply engaged in a devastating regional proxy war with each other.

The information that most news outlets presented to the public was that Sheikh Nimr was a peaceful Shia cleric who was unjustly executed by the Saudis, and, because he was a Shia, Iran was justifiably outraged.

But there is more to this story: Nimr was a student of Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Hussaini Shirazi and Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi al-Modarresi, the leaders of what is also referred to as the Shiraziyyin sect who are persecuted in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Shortly after the 1979 revolution, the Shiraziyyin became an important part of the new regime that overthrew the monarchy in Iran and led some of the para-military groups in the Office of the Liberation Movements, a forerunner to the Qods Force, the international arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

As the grizzly post revolution power struggle went on, however, Grand Ayatollah Shirazi, who considered himself far superior in rank, standing and pedigree to Ayatollah Khomeini, felt he had not got enough of a share of the cake and fell out with Khomeini.

Shirazi advocated for a council of high ranking jurists as the embodiment of the supreme authority, whereas Khomeini, riding high on post-revolution popularity and frenzy, favoured a single Supreme Leader, which happened to be himself.

When Khomeini died and the mantle of Supreme Leadership was passed on to Ayatollah Khamenei, Ayatollah Shirazi became even more outraged, since compared to him, Ali Khamenei had no ranking religious credentials. Shirazi fell out further with Khamenei and what followed was the arrest and mistreatment of the Shirazyinn sect, including the arrest of Ayatollah Shirazi's son, Seyd Morteza.

Amnesty International reports on the mistreatment of Ayatollah Shirazi's followers in Iran, include arrest of family members, beatings, prolonged sleep deprivation, electrocution and other physical tortures.

The regime in Iran often refers to the Shirazi sect and their followers as the "MI6 Shia" and accuses them of being agents of Britain.

In a wikileaks document on Sheikh Nimr, he speaks to a US political officer. Although the political officer does not seem to be aware of what the Shirazi sect is about, it is clear from Nimr's answers where he stands. In the interview, Nimr also praises US foreign policy as being, on the whole, historically on the right side of justice.

From the wikileaks report:

"..the Sheikh was much more complimentary of the U.S. - perhaps even somewhat disarming in his recounting of U.S. foreign policy in World War II, the Cold War, and the Carter administration".

Nimr's wife was treated for cancer in the USA and his children are currently studying there. This is hardly in tune with the weekly chants of, "Death to America" in Iran's Friday prayer sermons.

There is also a video of Sheikh Nimr, where he refers to Assad's regime as tyrants. So clearly if Sheikh Nimr was in Iran today, he could face arrest and imprisonment.

So the most crucial question that the media failed to ask was, why was the Islamic Republic of Iran taking ownership of Sheikh Nimr as their own martyr?! What was the love and affection for this follower of the "MI6 Shia sect" that enraged the hardliners in Iran and prompted them to once again break international law and attack yet another embassy?

Instead, the Western media on the whole sided with Iran as the pursuer of justice for a peaceful activist who was slain by the evil Saudis.

Maybe if the average news reader became better informed, however, they could see that Sheikh Nimr was just an excuse for both sides to further escalate regional tensions to spike the falling price of oil in order to save their crumbling economies.

Potkin Azarmehr left Iran for the UK after the “Cultural Revolution”. He is currently a contributor to several newspapers and Television stations on Iran related news and also writes and produces a number of TV programs

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