Tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran reached new heights this week after the kingdom severed diplomatic relations with Tehran.

The current media discourse didn't come from Saudi media outlets but externally, and Iran successfully took advantage of that. [Iran] forged it, and spread it until it reached international media outlets. Four of the executed were Shias while the others were Sunnis.

Salman Aldossary, Editor-in-Chief, Asharq Al-Aswat newspaper

The diplomatic rupture, which has further split an already divided Middle East, came after Saudi executed 47 people on January 2, including a prominent Shia cleric - Nimr al-Nimr.

Within hours of the death sentence being carried out, Iranian protesters ransacked the Saudi embassy in Tehran and started fires.

Iranian media had depicted Nimr as a peaceful dissident, and the execution as a provocative act. In Saudi Arabia, the national security narrative prevailed - Nimr's execution was justified as part of its "war on terrorism". 

The coverage in both countries and the international media, has since played up a sectarian divide - one that pits Sunni versus Shia - however this simplified binary fails to address the larger geopolitical issues involved.

Talking us through this geopolitical media battle are: Mohammed Alyahya, research fellow at the Gulf Research Centre; Borzou Daragahi, the Middle East correspondent for BuzzFeed News; journalist and author Azadeh Moaveni; and Salman Aldossary, editor-in-chief of the Saudi Asharq Al-Aswat newspaper.

Source: Al Jazeera