Saudi-Iran war of words escalates over Hajj row

Saudi-Iran war of words escalates over Hajj row

The bitter war of words between Iran and Saudi Arabia intensified Wednesday ahead of the annual hajj pilgrimage from which Iranians have been excluded for the first time in decades.

Iranian President Hassan Rohani said on September 7 that Islamic countries should take "punitive" measures against Saudi Arabia. "Unfortunately, this government has even refrained from a verbal apology to Muslims and Muslim countries".

During the 2015 hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, more than 2,000 Muslims lost their lives in a stampede in the city of Mina.

Following their actions, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei Saudi Arabia they will receive the "divine punishment".

On September 24, 2015, at least 460 Iranians were among thousands of pilgrims who died in a stampede which broke out in Mina, near Mecca, during the Hajj pilgrimage.

"The hesitation and failure to rescue the half dead and injured people.is also obvious and incontrovertible".

He said Saudi authorities had "murdered" some of them, describing Saudi rulers as godless and irreligious.

The head of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council hit back at Khamenei's remarks on Wednesday, calling them "inappropriate and offensive... and a desperate attempt to politicise" the hajj.

The Secretary-General also stressed that the GCC countries reject the unjust media campaign and successive statements by senior Iranian officials against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the GCC states.

Saudi-Iran war of words escalates over Hajj row

Iran's outburst was responded to in similarly strong language in an explosive statement issued yesterday by the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia Abdulaziz Al Al-Sheikh. Predating Christianity and Islam, Zoroastrianism was the dominant religion in Persia before the Muslim conquest.

That in turn provoked a harsh response on Twitter from Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, usually known for his smooth diplomacy. Al-Masjid al-Haram in Mecca and Al-Masjid an-Nabawi in Medina are the two holiest places in Islam.

The week began with a furious rebuke from Khamenei, published on his website, in which he accused the Saudi royals of "murder" over the deaths of almost 2,300 pilgrims, including hundreds of Iranians, in last year's stampede.

It is the most recent sign of soaring tensions between Riyadh and Tehran, which have historically vied to lead competing branches of Islam and more recently are on opposing sides of bloody conflicts in Syria, Yemen, and Iraq.

In January, relations were severed again after Iranian demonstrators torched Saudi Arabia's embassy and a consulate following Saudi Arabia's execution of a prominent Shia leader along with 47 "terrorists".

In April, Riyadh and Tehran failed to agree terms governing the Hajj after Iran demanded that Iranian pilgrims be allowed to perform certain practices deemed unacceptable to Saudi Arabia, who are from the majority Sunni sect of Islam.

A former senior U.S. foreign policy official, John Hannah, last month cited Gulf sources in an article for Foreign Policy magazine, saying that "the Saudis did in fact go out of their way to make Iranian attendance hard".

Meanwhile, Iran is fuming over the Saudi Mufti's statment.

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