The largely Sunni Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on Saturday announced the execution of 47 prisoners - including a Shiite Cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, whose death touched off violent protests from Tehran, Iran; to eastern Saudi Arabia; to Bahrain and to Lebanon.
Convicted and sentenced to death by Saudi Arabia in October 2014 on sedition and other charges, al-Nimr maintained, according to the Associated Press(AP), that he never carried weapons or called for violence. Yet, he criticized both the Sunni Saudi government for its domestic policies and the Shiite-Iranian backed Syrian government for violence against protesters.
Al-Nimr's execution has deepened a chasm into the already abyssal affairs of the Middle East, which is witnessing a proxy fight between Saudi Arabia - on the Sunni Muslim side and Iran - on the Siite Muslim side. Conflicts involving sects affiliated with both countries run from Libya, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, while Lebanon appears to be drawing closer to wider conflict.
Protests in Bahrain, Lebanon, Iran and within Saudi Arabia itself, point to a wider and more intense period of insecurity in the Middle East.