The Iranian website Asr-e Iran, which is close to the country's pragmatic circles, has criticized the January 2, 2016 attacks on the Saudi Embassy in Tehran and the Saudi Consulate in Mashhad by protestors enraged about the Saudi execution earlier that day of prominent Shi'ite cleric Nimr Al-Nimr. The website also implicitly criticized the Iranian regime for allowing the rioting, setting Iran up to be portrayed as a lawless state.
An article posted January 3, 2016 on the website, titled "Saudi Arabia Smiles Following The Events In Tehran And Mashhad: An Own Goal By Iran," stated that the execution of Sheikh Nimr Al-Nimr was strategic and aimed at killing two birds with one stone. It eliminated an opponent of the Saudi regime, and set a trap for Iran, in the knowledge that the inevitable enraged anti-Saudi reaction there would hand the Saudis a diplomatic triumph over it.
Expressing outrage at individuals and groups in Iran - hinting at supporters of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) who oppose the government policy that seeks to show a positive image of the country to the world - the article criticizes these actors for damaging Iran's foreign relations by taking the law into their own hands. By doing so, it said, they forced the Iranian government to apologize for their extreme actions, and tipped the diplomatic balance of power in favor of Iran's opponents.
The following is the translation of the article:
Rioters wreak havoc in Saudi embassy in Tehran (Image: English.alarabiya.net, January 3, 2016)
"By Executing Sheikh Nimr, Al-Saud Accomplished Two Main Goals: It Successfully Eliminated An Anti-Regime Force, And Also Entangled Iran In An Existential Crisis"
"Last night (January 2), Tehran and Mashhad were the sites of severe attacks by protesters on the Saudi Embassy [in Tehran] and consulate [in Mashhad], following the execution of Sheikh Nimr [Al-Nimr, in Saudi Arabia]. The protest was an expression of Shi'ite rage over this incident.
"By executing Sheikh Nimr, Saudi Arabia has shown that it is seeking adventures in the region and desires a confrontation with Iran. Al-Saud [i.e. the Saudi royal family] wants to bring Iran into a war - a war that does not represent the conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia, but rather the conflict between Shi'a and Sunna, which can propel the schism in the Middle East to a peak.
"This execution has shown that there is no logic in Saudi Arabia - yet behind this move is a grand strategy that must not be ignored by Iran and the Shi'ites. It was clear to almost everyone, including Al-Saud, that Sheikh Nimr's execution would trigger serious Shi'ite protests in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran. They [the Saudis] knew full well that the protests in Iran would be worse than in other countries...
"By executing Sheikh Nimr, Al-Saud accomplished two main goals: It successfully eliminated an anti-regime force, and also entangled Iran in an existential crisis.
"The Saudi strategy behind this execution aimed to damage Iran's honor, regionally and worldwide. Al-Saud knew full well that the first thing that the furious Iranians would do was attack its embassy and perhaps torch it as well - and this is exactly what happened last night in Tehran and Mashhad."
"These Attacks Moved The Ball From The Saudi Court To The Iranian One - With An Iranian Own Goal, Thanks To Certain People"
"These attacks moved the ball from the Saudi court to the Iranian one - with an Iranian own goal, thanks to certain people. Yesterday's headline in the global media was the attack in Iran on the Saudi Embassy, not Sheikh Nimr's execution. As far as the global media is concerned, [protestors] storming the walls of a foreign embassy in Iran is far more newsworthy than the execution of Sheikh Nimr in Saudi Arabia.
"Of course, Sheikh Nimr's execution must be condemned. But the attack on the Saudi Embassy by people furious at the execution was exactly what the regime in Riyadh had expected. This [Saudi] regime knew that some in Iran would not wait for the government [to act], and would instead implement their own domestic and foreign policy decisions. These attacks allowed the regime in Riyadh to cast itself as the oppressed party, and to say that Iran is not a safe [country].
"This is perfectly illustrated by the expressions of concern voiced by the UN secretary-general regarding Sheikh Nimr's execution and the attack on the Saudi Embassy in Tehran. An incident that could have been exploited to the full by Iran against the Saudi regime has been turned into a cudgel against the Islamic Republic [of Iran].
"Had those who acted on their own allowed Iran's diplomatic apparatus to address this inhumane Saudi move via proper channels - i.e. the UN, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation [OIC], and human rights institutions - international solidarity could have come together against Al-Saud.
"Instead of attacking the Saudi Embassy, this [Iranian] group, which always acts on its own [anyway], could have called for a day of 'rage against Al-Saud' and held a mass rally; this would have greatly helped the [Iranian] government in its conflict with Saudi Arabia.
"But now, instead of condemning Saudi Arabia, the [Iranian government] must answer for the actions of [some of] its citizens against a foreign embassy. Sadly, some in Iran have a superficial view of political issues, especially in the realm of foreign policy. They think that harsh and extremist moves such as attacking an embassy can be used to solve problems.
"Today, Iran and Saudi Arabia are in a state of 'cold war' - a game of chess in which each move must be wise and logical so that the opponent can be vanquished. Now, imagine how, in the middle of this political chess game, people on our own side arrive [on the scene] and, with their actions, tip the scales in favor of the opponent."
"We Cannot Solve Political Issues By Attacking And Torching Embassies"
"We cannot solve political issues by attacking and torching embassies. We must know that storming the walls of any embassy in Tehran is a serious 'own goal,' that can create many problems for the Islamic Republic. An obvious example of this is how the game of Sheikh Nimr's execution has been passed from Riyadh to Tehran. Let's not even think about the public funds that are going to have to be used to pay for the damage to the embassy itself.
"We must not allow a certain sector [that is driven] by emotional decisions to risk Iran's national security and lead it to be seen as the bad actor in the Middle East crisis."