Saudis Execute Cleric, US Media Blames Iran

US Papers Treat Saudi Killing as Shrewd Move Against Iran

The Saudi execution of top Shi’ite cleric Nimr al-Nimr, based entirely on him being critical of the Saudi government in sermons, fueled outrage not just in the Shi’ite world, but across much of the West as well, with human rights groups expressing disquiet at the killing of a religious minority leader for seemingly political reasons.

And by “much of the West,” of course, we exclude the United States, as the US media is treating the issue entirely Iran’s fault, and is spinning the soaring tensions as reaction to Iran not being okay with the Saudi execution, as opposed to there being anything objectionable about the execution as such.

Indeed, the New York Times appeared to laud the Saudis for their execution of Nimr, suggesting it was a shrewd move and that Iran, in not being okay with it “played into the Saudis’ hands” and are again facing international outcry.

The outcry, of course, is almost entirely illusory. The US media outlets are lashing Iran, but that’s just their default position. Beyond them, a few nations in the Saudis’ pockets like Sudan, or just hostile toward Iran to begin with, are the only ones really “backing” the Saudis in any real way.

On CNN, Wolf Blitzer and his guests wondered if the Saudis would have to get nuclear weapons now because Iran didn’t express support for the execution, and attempted to paint Iranian displeasure as part of an overarching Iranian plot against the Saudis.

Elsewhere in the world, nations are wondering aloud if this should lead to degradation of Saudi ties, in particular whether they should be selling the Saudi kingdom weapons. There was already considerable soul-searching to that effect, outside the US of course, with the huge civilian death toll in the Saudi war on Yemen. The extent to which that might get in the way of the anti-Iran narrative, however, has kept all questions about the Saudis carefully out of the US press.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of