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Compiled by Vic Chiang

The escalating diplomatic row between Saudi Arabia and Iran is expected to heighten tensions in the Middle East and raise the risk of proxy wars throughout the region as Saudi Arabia has cut diplomatic relations with Iran following the execution of the Saudi Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.

Last Saturday, Iranian protesters ransacked and set fire to the Saudi Embassy in Tehran. The Iranian government has also distanced itself from the Saudi embassy attack, and even suggested foreign elements organized it. Despite Iranian government’s claim, Sydney Morning Herald reports that Sunni majority Saudi Arabia has cut diplomatic ties with Iran, prompting fellow Sunni-led nations like Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Sudan to take similar action. Although not broken off diplomatic ties, Kuwait has recalled its ambassador from Iran on Wednesday.

“Very simple. Iran should back off, stop being aggressive, stop interfering, stop supporting terrorism," Saudi Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir said in an interview with CNBC on Tuesday when asked how to resolve the escalating crisis.

“I hope that they will turn around and adapt a more conciliatory policy and a more normal policy, the way that countries and governments should behave. And I want to emphasize here that we have no enmity towards Iran, we have no enmity towards the Iranian people," Al-Jubeir said, adding that Saudi Arabia has merely been reacting to Iran’s outrage.

However, the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday that Saudi Arabia cannot hide “its crime" of executing a Shi’ite Muslim cleric by cutting ties with Tehran, warning that discord could affect the fight against terrorism.

New York Times reports, there are fears that the hostilities between Iran and Saudi Arabia could once again foil Sunni-Shiite cooperation, empowering the Islamic State and sabotaging the fledgling efforts to ease many crises roiling in the region.

“For sure, the rise in sectarian tensions creates a fertile environment for the growth of ISIS," Saad al-Hadithi, a spokesman for Iraq’s prime minister, said Tuesday, using an acronym for the Islamic State, also known as ISIL. “All of this helps ISIS in building its fighting forces and getting support."

Edited by Eric Tsai