Saudi Arabia has announced it is severing diplomatic ties with Iran following an attack on its embassy in Tehran during protests against executions in the kingdom. Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi foreign minister, made the announcement on January 3, 2016, while the foreign ministry said it was asking Iranian diplomatic mission to leave the kingdom within 48 hours.
Bahrain has since also announced it is severing diplomatic ties with Iran, citing Iran's "blatant and dangerous interference" in Bahrain and other Arab countries, reports CNN, while the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has announced it is "downgrading" its diplomatic relations with Iran, according to the news channel.
The cutting of diplomatic ties comes at a time when many of the world’s leading powers had hoped that even limited cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Iran could help end the current wars in Syria and Yemen while easing tensions in other potential hotspots across the Middle East including Iraq, Bahrain and Lebanon.
Analysis of MIDT data shows that over 1.5 million O&D passengers a year fly in and out of Iran from/to Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The market between the UAE and Iran is the largest at an estimated 1.35 million annual passengers, with around 100,000 annual passengers in the other markets.
As part of their severing of diplomatic ties, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are expected to end all scheduled air links to Iran, with the former banning all its citizens from travelling into the country.
According to OAG, Bahrain is currently linked by Gulf Air to Mashhad, Shiraz and Tehran, and IranAir and Zagros Air fly between Bahrain and Mashhad. Meanwhile, although Saudia offered up to 40 weekly flights Jeddah to 14 points across Iran up to early May last year, it currently has just a four times weekly service between Dammam and Mashhad.