This is the worst phase of confrontation between Saudi Arabia and Iran in thirty years and therefore steps — to express solidarity — taken by countries like the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan to shut down and downgrade their diplomatic missions with Iran bears an important meaning for Riyadh. Tehran resorts to the use of violence and thuggery against governments that differ with it and Riyadh responds with its political weight and its international relations.
At the time when smoke from the scorched Saudi Embassy in Tehran was still rising, the spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry expressed his surprise at the Saudis for withdrawing their mission and closing the burned building! He said that there is no justification for this Saudi response. He spoke as if he was a spokesman for some peaceful Scandinavian country despite the embassy building burning in front of the eyes of Iranian police who acted as spectators.
Saudi Arabia did well to close its embassy and recall its diplomats because the Iranian authorities have always targeted embassies and diplomatic missions in every crisis, and its history is among the worst countries in the world. Saudis remember the awful assassination of a Saudi diplomat in Karachi by an Iranian man four years ago and Pakistan is still demanding his handover.
In addition to this, Iran had planted a bomb in the Saudi Embassy in Beirut, and the US security previously thwarted an Iranian plot to assassinate the then Saudi Ambassador in Washington who is now the Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir; the defendant was convicted and sent to prison. The former Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon, Abdulaziz Khoja, was subjected to threats, which forced him to return, “demonstrators” killed a Saudi employee at the embassy in Iran by throwing him from the third floor and another Saudi diplomat was attacked and his eyes gouged out.
In serious crises, diplomats are all important. However, Iranian authorities did not give ambassadors an opportunity to work. The burning of the Saudi Embassy in Tehran was in fact carried out by employees of one of the security forces claiming that they were demonstrators. No one believes the claims that they were protesters because this has happened many times. Every time Iran differs with a country, that country’s embassy is surrounded by demonstrations, stones are thrown at it, it is invaded, employees are attacked and property is looted.