By Arash Karami, for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iran Business News.
Tensions between regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran are not new, but recent statements by Iranian officials suggest that Saudi Arabia is intentionally delaying meetings between the two countries that would prevent Iranian pilgrims from performing their hajj obligations for the first time in nearly three decades.
An article by Arman Daily titled “Hajj without Iranian pilgrims!” covered the most recent statements by Iranian officials in charge of the pilgrimage. “The delay by Saudi Arabia for preparatory talks on the hajj means they do not want hajj to be completed [by the Iranians],” said the representative of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Hojat al-Islam Seyed Ali Ghazi Askar, on April 3. He warned that if there are no talks in the coming days on the issues of housing, transportation, food and other logistical matters for Iranian pilgrims, “the conditions to conducting a desirable hajj will become very difficult.”
Just before the Iranian New Year on March 20, Saeed Ohadi, the head of Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization, addressed some of the issues preventing talks between the two sides. Ohadi said that Saudi officials postponed a Jan. 7 meeting to March 9. According to Ohadi, Saudi officials, citing miscommunication between their Foreign Ministry and consular services in the United Arab Emirates, then refused to issue visas to the Iranian delegation for the March 9 meeting. Ohadi said that by this time last year, preparations for the 2015 hajj were already underway, adding, “Unfortunately, there is no hope for hajj [for Iranians] this year.”