KUWAIT CITY, Jan. 5 (UPI) -- Kuwait recalled its ambassador from Iran on Tuesday, joining several Arab countries supporting Saudi Arabia in its diplomatic conflict with Iran.
Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Sudan are among nations limiting their diplomatic involvement with Iran after Saudi Arabia's execution of 47 convicted terrorists Saturday, including Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a noted Shia Muslim cleric. The severing of diplomatic ties was also in response to the looting the of the Saudi embassy in Tehran and the burning of the Saudi consulate in Mashhad.
Saudi Arabia, with its majority Sunni Muslim population and government, and largely Shia Iran are competing for influence in the Middle East, and the incidents have set off a visible power struggle between the two regional powers. While the execution of Nimr was condemned internationally, the incident was overshadowed by Iran's violent reaction. Iran has been governed by Shia clerics since its 1979 revolution, and regards itself as protector of the world's Shia Muslims.
Although Kuwait recalled its ambassador from Tehran, it did not formally expel his Iranian counterpart nor officially downgrade diplomatic ties. When Saudi Arabia announced it would end diplomatic ties with Iran on Sunday, it canceled all airline service between the two countries and banned Saudi citizens from traveling to Iran.
The split between Saudi Arabia and Iran threatens peace talks over Syria, scheduled for later this month. Each country has been invited to the negotiating table, but with diplomatic ties cut, their involvement is unlikely.