Historically cozy US-Saudi relations have kept the Obama Administration relatively quiet on the weekend Saudi execution of a top Shi’ite cleric, a move that US officials warned them against and which they did anyhow.
Europe, however, is showing a lot less willingness to look the other way on the Saudi executions, and while the Saudis scramble to get other Sunni nations to cut ties with Iran, the incident seems to be increasing Europe’s sympathies for Iran, and by consequence bolstering their ties.
It’s not surprising, as Europe has already been critical of Saudi war crimes in Yemen, and is opposed to the death penalty in general, making the execution of a religious leader on the basis of his sermons kind of a no-brainer for them to condemn.
Meanwhile, Iran is seen as increasingly reasonable, scrambling to comply with the terms of the P5+1 nuclear deal, and quick to condemn protesters attacking the Saudi embassy in Tehran. The Saudis are treating it as a government plot, but Iran arrested dozens of protesters involved in the attack and has made it clear publicly they don’t endorse attacks on the embassies.
Indeed, Iran was making a public show of being part of a community of critics against the Saudi execution, with President Rouhani hosting the Danish Foreign Minister in Tehran before issuing a statement warning that the Saudis aren’t going to distract attention from the “criminal” execution by simply cutting ties with Iran.