It was as if Saudi Arabia executed yet another terrorist when Foreign Minister Adel Jubeir announced the severing of ties with Iran.
In fact, one could argue that the Iranian regime resembles the single biggest terrorist threat, not just to Saudi Arabia and the region, but to global security as well.
Iran -- in a typical manner -- pretended that it was trying to prevent protesters from attacking and setting fire to the Saudi embassy in Tehran, but in reality it did not prevent them (it wouldn't be surprising, or a first, if it turns out that it actually encouraged them as well).
Iran also criticized the execution of convicted hate preacher Nimr al-Nimr, who had been described by Saudi authorities as an "instigator of sedition" and was found guilty of seeking "foreign meddling" in the kingdom, among other charges. Through its media and various mouthpieces, Iran made the issue appear sectarian -- because Saudi Arabia is a Sunni state and Nimr was Shiite. Conveniently, Iranian officials avoided mentioning the fact that only four of the 47 executed terrorists were Shiite.
The rest were not only Sunni, but extremist Sunnis who were leading figures in al-Qaeda, which Saudi Arabia is accused -- by Iran in particular -- of supporting!
Of course, it is easy to point the finger at Riyadh, for 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9-11 were Saudis. In addition, the late leader of Al-Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden, was a Saudi before he was stripped of citizenship.
However, there is a big difference between being a regime that supports terrorism, such as Iran, and the Saudi government which has been praised by global powers as a key ally in the war against terror. The truth is the kingdom has been fighting the likes of al-Qaeda and ISIS relentlessly (for anyone who hasn't seen it yet, Al Arabiya's exclusive, recently-aired documentary is a must watch) and relentlessly going after any of its own citizens who are proven to be members of such groups.
Among the al-Qaeda members executed was Faris al-Shuwail, a top al-Qaeda ideologue, whose writings attempted to justify the strategies and tactics employed by the militants. Like Nimr, al-Shuwail might have not personally killed people, but his teachings and sermons were a direct factor behind the taking of innocent lives, which makes them both equally responsible for the crimes committed.
While many fail -- whether intentionally or not -- to recognize Saudi Arabia's intense efforts and the sacrifices made by a large number of its own security forces on this front, it is shocking that Riyadh is still seen with dubious eyes when it is Tehran - according to the U.S. State and Treasury Departments - that is providing refuge and assisting al-Qaeda leaders both logistically and financially. This explains why al-Qaeda is more preoccupied with the Saudi government rather than what would arguably be its natural foe: Iran.
In all cases, it is surreal that Iran would have the audacity to criticize Saudi Arabia for executing a number of convicted terrorists.
According to Amnesty International, Tehran executed over 700 people in the first half of last year and the final toll for 2015 is expected to top 1,000 once officially announced (it should be noted that this is happening under the nose of the so-called "moderate" leader President Rohani!). It goes without saying that many of these sentences were against Sunni clerics who are believed to have not committed any crimes or received a fair trial.
While Saudi Arabia publicly tried and executed the al-Qaeda gunman who, among his many terrorist acts, attacked and paralyzed BBC journalist Frank Gardner and killed his cameraman back in 2004, the Iranian regime still maintains the detention of Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian, who was subjected to a secretive trial and a cryptic sentencing late last year.
Iran is also responsible for backing and financing numerous terrorist and paramilitary groups in the region, from Hezbollah (the key destabilizing force in Lebanon which is also responsible for the 1983 Beirut barracks attack on U.S. marines) to Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq in Iraq (responsible for the killing of Iraqis, Brits and Americans), as well as the Houthis in Yemen.
While there is absolutely no issue with the Iranian people themselves, who are far more moderate and tolerant than their leaders, Riyadh severing its ties with Iran is certainly a step in the right direction and Saudi Arabia's allies should follow suit, like Bahrain did today.
If the U.S. and other global powers managed to succeed in ridding Iran of its nuclear ambitions (or so it seems) in 2015, then 2016 should be the year in which Iran's interference and destabilizing behavior in the region is put to an end... once and for all!
*This blog post was originally published in Al Arabiya News.