Al-Nimr Protests Reflect Iran's Hypocrisy

There's nothing wrong with protesting against injustice. Things get murky when a state instigates violent protests against another state -- all the while claiming a moral high ground. Iran's double standards have been badly exposed by the protests against the execution of a Shiite Saudi cleric Sheikh Nimr Al-Nimr. Here's a state with the audacity to lodge protests against another while having an abysmal human rights record of its own. Iran is notorious for persecuting its religious minorities, stifling employment opportunities; and incarcerating and executing them by the dozens. Iran-backed militias unleashed terror in Iraq and Syria and played a key role in the rise of Daesh. Iran and its proxies are still backing the killing machines of Bashar al-Assad. That it still claims to be the victim is the height of hypocrisy.

Nimr was not the only person executed by the Saudi authorities. The total tally is 47, all but four of them were Shia. There is a glaring omission of the other 43 people, who may also have not received a fair trial. Saudi justice system is not exemplary to begin with. Far from it. Same is the case with Iran.

Iran employs as ridiculous charges as "enmity against God" and "corruption on earth" to persecute religious minorities, according to an Amnesty International report. These "crimes" carry the death penalty and Sunnis, Baha'is, Kurds, Sufis and other minorities are regularly sent to the gallows. Amnesty International reports Iran executed up to 448 people by July 15, 2015; the figure was 743 in 2014.

The deeply-sectarian government in Iraq launched a massive campaign of hatred against the Sunnis. Thousands perished at the hands of the overwhelmingly Shiite army. The same Sunnis who had mounted a successful anti-Al-Qaeda campaign with the U.S. and Iraqi army were rewarded with bullets and torture -- under the supervision of Iran. Baghdad and Tehran thus helped midwife Daesh into existence. Since then, the army and Shiite militias backed by Iran have launched another massive killing spree under the pretext of fighting terror. The same Iraqi government also condemned the execution of Al-Nimr, and rockets were fired at the newly opened Saudi embassy in Baghdad.

It's not just the militias carrying out executions in Syria. High-ranking Iranian officials, Hezbollah and thousands of volunteers -- some recruited from Afghanistan and Pakistan -- are part of the regime forces. These have been around since the start of the conflict in 2011, part and parcel of the killing machines that annihilated hundreds of thousands of Syrians and displaced millions. Remember that Daesh didn't emerge until mid-2014 -- and despite its barbarianism -- can't match the lethality of barrel bombs and carpet bombing.

The protests, ransacking of the Saudi consulates and invocation of divine vengeance by the grand mullah of Iran can't change that reality. Iran's Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah have threatened to avenge the execution, which is another indication of Iran's interventionist policies. Saudi Arabia might have been a monster. It has a long history of sowing discontent and fueling extremism. Iran, however, is turning into a bigger monster. The policy of sponsoring extremism while donning the cloak of piety will not work for long. There are troubling times ahead. The West and particularly the U.S. needs to adopt a very cautious approach in its dealings with Iran. It's part of the problem, not the solution.