The Saudi execution of Nimr al-Nimr this weekend has acted as a catalyst that may have sparked a major uprising across the Middle East. It's difficult to say now, but by the time this is all done, this may be the event that ends up toppling the Saudi government. Certainly since Obama took office, Middle Eastern regimes have regularly been brought down over less.
Time will tell whether the Saudi execution of al-Nimr was the right move, strategically, for the Saudi government. The problem right now is that American pundits and commentators barely know how to comment on the news for the most part, because of the media's insistence on characterizing al-Nimr as a "dissident," which carries with it the connotation that al-Nimr was some sort of liberalizing reformer.
Various "human rights groups," which are 99% of the time willing stooges for Islamic states that could fairly be described as Islamofascist, are helping the media spread this impression by condemning the killing of al-Nimr as an affront to reform. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.
The reality is that al-Nimr was a de facto agent of the Iranian government operating within Saudi Arabia, if not a de jure one. According to information not reported virtually anywhere in the Western media and sadly only carried by Wikileaks, al-Nimr was a regular proponent of violence as a tool to overthrow the Sunni House of Saud in favor of a new Shia-led government. Al-Nimr has never displayed interest in "democracy" except as a pretext for a revolution in the style of 1979 in Iran, and he clearly has viewed himself as an Ayatollah-in-waiting of a new Saudi state that would work hand-in-glove with the Iranians.
This is to say nothing of the fact that al-Nimr somehow - through sheer coincidence, of course - repeatedly found himself at the center of violent protests that resulted in the deaths of Saudi citizens and government officials. You add all this evidence up and you come to the pretty inescapable conclusion that al-Nimr was not a peaceful preacher of reform, but rather a violent radical bent on overthrowing the Sunni secular fascists who currently rule Saudi Arabia in favor of Shia religious fascists like the ones who currently rule Iran.
I don't really know whether life in Saudi Arabia would improve under such a regime and after the American experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan I don't much care. Did conditions for the average Iranian improve after the Shah was deposed? Only insofar as the new oppressors did their oppressing in the name of Islam, which Muslims seem to prefer over oppressing done in the name of oil money. This kind of "change" is not really desirable enough on a human rights level to justify wanting it to occur, given that the interests of the United States in the region would clearly take a much worse turn if al-Nimr and his ilk were to come to power in Saudi Arabia.
The eerie similarities between the current uprising and the Iranian uprisings in 1979 cannot be overlooked. Certainly the Shah was not perfect and many Westerners - especially in the media and in the Carter administration - were duped into believing that the Mullah-led uprisings would lead to greater liberalization in the region. Instead we found that the region became infinitely worse from the standpoint of American interests - and from the standpoint of religious minorities like the Baha'i, for that matter - under the theocrats than they ever were under the Shah. And now, almost 40 years later, Iran remains a never ending sore in the region, causing chaos and agitation that is contrary to American interests throughout the entire Middle East.
It should go without saying that allowing the same farce to play out in Saudi Arabia could not possibly be something that any American should desire; however, one of the great things about being a liberal is that you don't have to ever admit having been historically wrong since liberals have an almost total monopoly on professions like "college history professor" and "ivory tower history textbook writer." Accordingly, it seems that we are doomed to head down this same rabbit hole again.