(London Post – Middle East Monitor) Seven years before his execution by the Saudi Arabian authorities, prominent Shia Shaikh Nimr Baqir Al-Nimr tried to persuade US diplomats in Riyadh that he was not a pro-Iran militant as portrayed by Saudi officials, Foreign Policy has reported. The US magazine quoted extensively from a WikiLeaks cable as evidence of the claims about Al-Nimr, whose beheading in Saudi Arabia earlier this week sparked angry protests in the kingdom and Iran.
Apparently, Al-Nimr “eagerly attempted to divorce himself from the image of being an Iranian agent.” The cable’s author added that the Saudi imam was also “much more complimentary of the US” than he had been in past sermons.
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The US diplomat highlighted some parts of his conversation with Nimr in a 2008 embassy cable which was later made public by WikiLeaks. “When asked… whether his tough talk promoted violence or simply warned of it as a possible repercussion of continued discontent in the Shia community, Al-Nimr responded that if a conflict were to occur he would ‘side with the people, never with the government’. He continued by saying that though he will always choose the side of the people, this does not necessarily mean that he will always support all of the people’s actions, for example, violence.”
It is claimed that Al-Nimr believed that, “When compared with the actions of nations such as Britain, the European colonial powers, or the Soviet Union, the ‘imperialism’ of the United States has been considerably more benign, with better treatment of people and more successful independent states.” He also stated that Shia Muslims, even more than Sunnis, are “natural allies for America” as Shia thought, as reflected by Imam Ali, is based on justice and liberty, ideas central to the United States.
In addition to giving his comparison of Shia and American ideals, Al-Nimr showed significant historical knowledge of US foreign policy. He spoke positively, for example, of the spirit of Middle East initiatives during the Carter administration.
“Al-Nimr stated that his fundamental view of foreign powers including Iran is that they act out of self-interest, not out of piety or religious commonality,” revealed the diplomatic cable. “Al-Nimr said he was against the idea that Saudi Shia should expect Iranian support based on some idea of sectarian unity that supersedes national politics.” Indeed, while he believed that the Shia community in Saudi Arabia had the right to search for foreign assistance in the case of conflict against other Saudis, “Al-Nimr did not invoke Iran in detailing where this foreign assistance might come from.”
With regards to the Saudi government, Al-Nimr also continued “unflinchingly” to denounce Riyadh and its actions. “One of Al-Nimr’s overriding messages in this meeting was his view of governments as reactionary institutions. He did, however, mention that there is a small amount of hope that younger generations, as they continue to study abroad in larger numbers and are exposed to more tolerant societies, will bring more tolerant attitudes back to the kingdom.
Wikileaks cable interview with majoosi nemr cleric praising usa :