With the Hajj (the annual Mecca Pilgrimage) starting this weekend, tensions have risen once again between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Remembering the events of last year’s pilgrimage, where a fallen crane and the stampede which followed it meant the death of more than 2000 people, the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused the Arabian authorities of being unable to manage the Islamic holy site, as well as being infidels to their own #Religion.

Historical tensions between Sunnis and Shias

With Iran being the country with the largest number of Shia Muslims, which represent a minority of Islam, and Saudi Arabia being the global representative of the Sunni majority, these accusations constitute a serious rise in tension between two countries that are not only regional competitors, but also religious referents of the two major branches of Islam.

The mutual accusations of infidelity towards Islam launched by Shias and Sunnis over the last week are nothing new. In fact, the different interpretation of Islam has meant a constant struggle between both views that has resulted in the destabilization of the #Middle East for centuries. However, taking into account the proximity of the Hajj, the accusations launched by the Iranian and Arabian authorities are particularly worrying since they speak as spiritual leaders of both branches.

Relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which have best incarnated the historical tensions between Sunnis and Shias, have gone from bad to worse since the Iranian Revolution led by Ruhollah Khomeini in 1979. Since then565r4, both countries have struggled both as leaders of opposing views of Islam and as regional powers with issues such as accusations of having diplomatic ties with the United States, the differences of opinion on oil prices, or accusations of assassination and sabotage, among others.

Undercover war in Syria

Relations had hit rock bottom since the beginning of the Syrian civil war in 2011 when the uprising of part of the Syrian population against the regime of Bashar al-Asad fused with a separate war involving ISIS. In said conflict, both have financed and supported opposing sides in what has become once again a struggle between both countries to improve their position of power in the region.

With Iran and Saudi Arabia fighting an undercover war for power in Syria and the crossed accusations of infidelity launched this week, this year the celebration of the Hajj will be a particularly tense one. Authorities of both countries would do good in softening their accusations for the good of safety during the Hajj. #ISIS