Timeline: Troubled history of Iran-Saudi relations | Reuters.com
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Timeline: Troubled history of Iran-Saudi relations

Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic relations with Iran on Sunday over the storming of the Saudi embassy in Tehran, in a deepening crisis following the kingdom's execution of a prominent Shi'ite Muslim cleric. We take a look at some ups and downs of the last 20 years.

    2016 - Diplomatic ties cut
    • Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic relations with Iran over the storming of the Saudi embassy in Tehran, in a crisis following the kingdom's execution of a prominent Shi'ite Muslim cleric.

    • Iranian protesters stormed the Saudi embassy and Shi'ite Iran's top leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, predicted "divine vengeance" for the execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, an outspoken opponent of the kingdom's ruling Al Saudi family.

    • Saudi Arabia said on Monday that it would restore ties when Tehran stopped meddling in the affairs of other countries.


    Supporters of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr protest against the execution of Shi'ite Muslim cleric Nimr al-Nimr in Saudi Arabia, during a demonstration in Baghdad January 4, 2016. The poster reads, "Innocent blood on your hands, Al-Saud". REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani 

    2012 - The proxy wars


    • Saudi Arabia became the main supporter of rebels fighting to topple Iran's ally, President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Riyadh accused Assad of "genocide" and Iran of being an "occupying power". Tehran accused Riyadh of backing "terrorism".
    • In March 2015, Saudi Arabia began a military campaign in Yemen to stop the Houthis, allied to Iran, from taking power. Riyadh accused Iran of using the militia to stage a coup d'etat. Tehran said Riyadh's air strikes targeted civilians.

    Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (L) and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia review the honor guards in Damascus July 29, 2010. REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri 

    2003 - Regional rivalry

    • The invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in Iraq empowered the country's Shi'ite majority, causing a shift in its political alignment towards Iran. 
    • Iran's nuclear energy program also deepened Saudi fears that Tehran under Khatami's successor President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was bent on dominating the Gulf region and boosting its Shi'ite populations.
    • In 2007 Saudi Arabia told an Iranian envoy in January 2007 that Iran's actions were putting the Gulf in danger.


    Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks in Bandar Abbas, about 1000 km (621 miles) south of Tehran January 11, 2006. REUTERS/Stringer 

    2011 - Arab Spring and alleged assassination plot


    • Saudi Arabia sent troops to help Bahrain quash mass pro-democracy protests, fearing the mostly Shi'ite opposition would align with Iran. The two countries later accused Tehran of fomenting violence against Bahraini police.
    • U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks showed Saudi leaders, including King Abdullah, pushing Washington to take a tough stance against Iran over its nuclear programme, including the possible use of military force. 
    • Washington said it had uncovered an Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States. Riyadh said the evidence was overwhelming and Tehran would pay a price.

    Manssor Arbabsiar is shown in this courtroom sketch during an appearance in a Manhattan courtroom in New York, New York on October 11, 2011. He was later sentenced to 25 years for participating in the murder plot. REUTERS/Jane Rosenberg

    1999 - What Khatami did


    • Iranian President Mohammad Khatami visited Saudi Arabia in 1999 on the first visit by an Iranian president since the revolution. 
    • King Fahd congratulated President Khatami, a Shi'ite Muslim cleric, on his landslide election victory in 2001. Khatami worked to end the two decades of tension that followed Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution.
    • In April 2001 the two countries sealed their better relations with a security pact.

    Iranian President Mohammad Khatami raises his hands as he addresses reporters during a new conference in Tehran June 5, 2001, three days before presidential polls. REUTERS/File photo 

    July 1987 - Mecca clashes


    • Relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran were strained almost to breaking point in July 1987 when 402 pilgrims, including 275 Iranians, died during clashes in the Muslim holy city of Mecca.
    • Protesters took to the streets of Tehran, occupied the Saudi embassy and set fire to Kuwait's embassy. A Saudi diplomat died of wounds sustained when he fell out of an embassy window and Riyadh accused Tehran of delaying his transfer to Saudi Arabian hospital. 
    • Diplomatic relations were severed by Saudi Arabia's King Fahd in April 1988.


    The sun sets over Namirah mosque on the plains of Arafat during the annual haj pilgrimage, outside the holy city of Mecca October 3, 2014. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed 
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