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Iranian, U.A.E. Ministers Trade Twitter Digs In Saudi Standoff

  • Golnaz Esfandiari

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif (left) and U.A.E. Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan (Photos: RIA Novosti/Sputnik)

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif (left) and U.A.E. Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan (Photos: RIA Novosti/Sputnik)

The diplomatic crisis between Iran and Saudi Arabia has spilled onto Twitter, where the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) -- Riyadh's staunch ally -- triggered a war of words by mocking an opinion piece by his Iranian counterpart published in The New York Times.

In the January 10 op-ed, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused Saudi Arabia of "sponsoring extremists and promoting sectarian hatred" in the region. He also denounced the kingdom's human rights record and recent execution of 47 prisoners, including prominent Shi'ite cleric Nimr al-Nimr, whose death prompted the storming of Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran.

U.A.E. Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan hit back at Zarif and Iran, which is also accused of serious human rights violations, with a tweet to his 2.58 million followers.

"When I read the Iranian foreign minister's article in The New York Times, I thought it was written by the foreign minister of a Scandinavian country," Nahyan wrote in Arabic, punctuating the tweet with a smiley.

Zarif fired back with a tweet to his 363,000 followers that did not mention Nahyan by name but left little doubt about whom he was attacking.

"Diplomacy is the domain of the mature; not arrogant nouveau-riche," Zarif tweeted on January 13.

Hours later, Nahyan snarkily reminded Zarif of basic principles of international diplomacy.

"Don't torch, take over or ransack embassies and consulates. Don't take diplomats hostage," Nahyan tweeted in English, adding the hashtag #DiploMaturity101.

Saudi Arabia and its allies have severed or downgraded ties with Iran following the attack on the Saudi Embassy in Tehran earlier this month.

Zarif and other Iranian officials have strongly condemned the attack while vowing to bring those responsible to justice. One security official was reportedly fired over the incident.

The U.A.E., which is home to many Iranians and Iranian-owned business, downgraded ties with the Islamic republic over the attacks on Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran.

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    Golnaz Esfandiari

    Golnaz Esfandiari is a senior correspondent with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. She can be reached at


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Persian Letters is a blog that offers a window into Iranian politics and society. Written primarily by Golnaz Esfandiari, Persian Letters brings you under-reported stories, insight and analysis, as well as guest Iranian bloggers -- from clerics, anarchists, feminists, Basij members, to bus drivers.


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