Smoke rises as Iranian protesters, upset over the execution of Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr in Saudi Arabia, set fire to the Saudi embassy in Tehran, Jan. 3, 2016. (Mohammadreza Nadimi/ISNA via AP)
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The arson attack on the Saudi Embassy in Tehran that prompted Riyadh to cut diplomatic ties with Iran was initially seen as a victory for hard-line opponents of President Hassan Rouhani.The violence has undermined the president's efforts in the Middle East and beyond to bring Iran out of its relative isolation – exemplified by last year's deal with world powers on its nuclear program.His government has maintained its criticism of Saudi Arabia's execution of Shiite Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr which sparked the angry protests at the Tehran embassy and Riyadh's consulate in Mashhad, Iran's second-largest city.Such a setback for Rouhani – who Wednesday wrote to Iran's judiciary chief to demand that those accused of orchestrating the violence be dealt with – came after years of trying to improve Iran's international image.Unlike Rouhani this week, Iran's then-president, the hard-line Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, remained silent four years ago.
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