In Photos: Egypt's Sisi inspects King Salman University in Sharm El-Sheikh    'Wild week' as Washington works amid impeachment    Egypt's Military Production Authority, China Poly Group Corporation to set up a tyre manufacturing plant    North Korea says it conducted another crucial test at satellite launch site    Uber launches appeal to regain London taxi license after suspension    Egypt, France discuss cooperation in transportation projects    Hezbollah wants everyone in Lebanon government, insists on FPM    Ahly inks Egypt's forward Kahraba on four-and-a-half year deal    Police brace for Catalan separatist protest during Barcelona-Real Madrid clasico    Wall Street steady as U.S., China unveil trade deal    Qatar says there has been 'small progress' in resolving Gulf dispute    Ex-premier elected Algerian president yet thousands march in protest    Oil rises in 3 months as U.S.-China deal takes shape    Gold prices steady as weaker dollar offsets increased risk appetite    Insider attack kills 9 Afghan militia, officials say    Google reveals Egypt's top internet searches list for 2019    Helwan University holds conference on African studies    Rain, cold temperatures expected ahead in Cairo    BREAKING: Algeria declares former PM Tebboune winner of presidential election    'Maybe I'm not in my job on Monday,' says West Ham boss    Leicester show no sign of giving up title chase    UK supports Egypt in developing 1st action plan on women, peace, security    Art Alert: Celebrating 71 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with film screenings    'Happy Journey' play tours Egypt starting with Tanta    Art Alert: Film Joker to screen at Tahrir Cultural Centre    Protesters hang gunman in Baghdad square: Officials    Hundreds protest in central Algiers against disputed election    Egyptian Weightlifting Federation's officials referred to prosecution over doping crisis – ministry    Apple's CEO spotted sampling Singapore's foods in neighborhood market    Mohamed Salah the most mentioned football player in Egypt on Twitter    Here is the full list of Golden Globes 2020 nominations    Even being big, burly one needs his mother    Adam Sandler threatens to make ‘so bad' movie if he doesn't win Oscar    Egypt's Tahrir Square among top Reuters photos of a decade    Egypt names 16 new governors ahead of anticipated Cabinet reshuffle    Egypt's MPs back potential return of information minister post in expected reshuffle    Court sentences six to death, 41 to lifetime imprisonment violence related case    Trump says he would release Mideast peace plan after Israeli elections    ACWA Power compares 3 bids to supply production units for Luxor power station    What do you know about gold alloying?    NBE announces EGP 2.5m prizes for handball youth teams for their world achievements    Jennifer Lopez evokes Egyptian outrage post her North Coast performance    Al-Sisi honours Egypt's scholars on Science Day    IS claims responsibility for suicide bombing killing 63 in Afghan wedding    Political parties gear up for parliamentary, senate, local elections    Unprecedented Glory: Egypt win Men's U-19 World Handball Championship    12th National Egyptian Theatre Festival fuel up public theatre art scene    Ministry of Environment has a plan for "black clouds season"    

Thank you for reporting!
This image will be automatically disabled when it gets reported by several people.

As insults fly, Iran-Saudi haj row aggravates regional rifts
Published in Amwal Al Ghad on 29 - 09 - 2015

For regional adversaries at loggerheads over the crises in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, the disaster at the haj is unlikely to be a game changer in the contest between Iran and Saudi Arabia, merely adding venom to their mutual acrimony.
But a deepening of already profound mistrust between the conservative Sunni kingdom and the revolutionary Shia theocracy will make the task of stabilising the Middle East's many trouble spots even harder to achieve than it already is.
While the Gulf rivals have managed to put aside bad blood after past flare-ups, such moments of detente happened in a much more stable Middle East, years before turmoil in Iraq and Arab Spring uprisings unleashed sectarian hatreds across the region.
Today, Iranian and Saudi participation would be crucial in stabilising Iraq, Syria, Yemen or Lebanon, where the two sides back sectarian proxy forces that are either at daggers drawn or openly at war in conflicts killing thousands each month.
Riyadh also accuses Tehran of fomenting trouble in Bahrain and even Saudi Arabia itself. Tehran accuses Riyadh of plotting its destruction with Washington.
The animosity worsened in the wake of the deadliest disaster to befall the annual haj pilgrimage in 25 years.
Iran says it lost at least 169 pilgrims when two large groups of pilgrims converged on Thursday at a crossroads in Mina, a few kilometres east of Mecca, on their way to perform the "stoning of the devil" ritual at Jamarat.
Iran demanded an apology. Demonstrators protested in Tehran, chanting "Death to the Saudi dynasty". Saudis commentators insinuated that Iranian pilgrims themselves were at fault.
Invective poured onto social media.
"It's a lie that Satan's representative, Khamenei, mourns the Mina incident victims," Saudi prince Khaled Al Saud tweeted, referring to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
"Dirty hands"
"His dirty hands are stained with the blood of the children of Syria and the Sunnis of Iraq," the prince told his nearly quarter of a million followers.
A cartoon published by Iran's Tasnim news agency showed King Salman of Saudi Arabia as a camel trampling pilgrims.
Even before the haj tragedy, prominent figures in both countries exchanged critical tirades. In May, Khamenei denounced Saudi Arabia for its military campaign in Yemen by comparing the kingdom to the pagans who ruled the Arabian Peninsula before the advent of Islam in the seventh century.
At the United Nations, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday lamented that Riyadh had rebuffed his repeated attempts at reconciliation since his election in 2013.
"We are disappointed about the cold relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia," he said. "The rift between Tehran and Riyadh is not in the interest of either country."
"Also when Saudis started killing people in Yemen, Riyadh drifted even further away from Iran and many other Islamic countries," Rouhani told an audience of US think-tanks and journalists on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, a longtime adviser to the kingdom's rulers, wearily accused Tehran of playing politics. "We will reveal the facts when they emerge, and we will not hold anything back," he said.
Iranians are sceptical about that. But analysts across the region agree the depth of the crisis may be determined largely by the results of the Saudi probe and how much is published.
Former Iranian lawmaker Elias Hazrati told Reuters by phone from Tehran that Iran was not playing politics over the haj.
"Tehran is simply asking Riyadh to take responsibility," he said. "If this incident happened only once we could call it an accident, but this is happening every few years. The Saudis' mismanagement is the problem of all the Islamic world, not Tehran."
Saudi commentators point the finger at Tehran.
Jamal Khashoggi, head of a Saudi news channel owned by a prince, said investigators were looking at the actions of a large number of Iranian pilgrims who "happened to be in the wrong place in the wrong time".
"I think Saudi Arabia will speak very loudly on the issue when the result of the investigations come out. No statement has been made officially, but now it seems that the Iranians will be blamed because they took their hajjis in the wrong direction at the wrong time. That was very irresponsible," he said.
The rivals have overcome previous crises in their relations.
A late 1990s rapprochement followed a 1996 truck-bombing in the kingdom that killed 19 US service personnel and clashes at the 1987 haj between Iranian protesters and Saudi police that led to the death of 400 people, mainly Iranians.
Saudi Arabia and the United States accused Iran of orchestrating the 1996 attack. Iran denied any role.
But the rapprochement happened at a time of relative Gulf stability, above all when Iraq was ruled by a Sunni, Saddam Hussein, seen by Gulf Arab states as a buffer against Iran. Now a worsening of Iran-Saudi rivalry could have broad consequences.
Not only are the two competitors openly tussling for influence in Arab countries, but Saudi Arabia is worried that Washington has realigned with Tehran at Arab expense by backing a deal settling Iran's long-standing nuclear dispute.
Alive to what he sees as a US-Iran detente, Saudi Arabia's new monarch, King Salman, is pushing for Sunni Muslim Middle East countries to set aside differences over political Islam and focus on what it sees as the more urgent threat from Tehran.
The diplomatic heft that Riyadh employs in such efforts is rooted in its prestigious role as custodian of Islam's holiest places.
Iranian commentator Hazrati said Riyadh appeared to believe that if it accepted blame for the disaster it would be seen as weakness and lead to calls for the kingdom to give up its custodianship to an international body.
Saudi Arabia's critics in the past urged Riyadh to transfer management of the haj and holy places to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the world's largest Muslim body.
OIC Secretary-General Iyad Ameen Madani, a Saudi cleric and former haj minister, issued a statement after the disaster expressing confidence in Saudi Arabia's hosting of the event.
In a statement, he expressed the hope that "no party would seek to take advantage of the pilgrimage and pilgrims ... in a controversial context that would divide rather than unite".
source: Reuters

Clic here to read the story from its source.