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A New War in the Middle East?


The long-running rivalry between Sunni-Muslim Saudi Arabia and Shia-Muslim Iran now shows potential for open regional conflict after the Saudi execution Saturday of a prominent opposition Shiite cleric who was revered in Iran.

Watch CBN's experts discuss the possible consequences of an outright war between Saudi Arabia and Iran and what can be done to stop it. CBN Middle East Bureau Chief Chris Mitchell, Chief International Correspondent Gary Lane, and Terrorism Analyst Erick Stakelbeck weigh in.

The execution of Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr and 46 others convicted of terror charges--the largest mass execution carried out by Saudi Arabia since 1980--aggravated the Sunni-Shia division that already gripped the region.

Saudi Arabia and Iran have been fighting behind the scenes for years.

Allies of Saudi Arabia followed the kingdom's lead and began scaling back diplomatic ties to Iran on Monday after the ransacking of Saudi diplomatic missions in the Islamic Republic.

Shiite protesters took to the streets from Bahrain to Pakistan, while Arab allies of Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia lined up behind the kingdom.

Sudan and the tiny island kingdom of Bahrain said they would sever ties with Iran, as Saudi Arabia did late Sunday. Within hours, the United Arab Emirates announced it would downgrade ties to Tehran to the level of the charge d'affaires and would only focus on economic issues. Somalia also issued a statement criticizing Iran.

The escalating tensions between the two longtime regional rivals looks to further imperil efforts to end the wars in Syria and Yemen, where Saudi Arabia and Iran back rival sides.

Further vengeful actions from Shia nations are likely to draw a Saudi response and that will only ratchet up the confrontation.

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