Adam L. Silverman
The rhetorical battle between Saudi Arabia and Iran has heated up over recent events in Mecca. Iran recently suspended pilgrimages to Mecca amid allegations that two Iranian pilgrims were abused at Jeddah Airport on their way back to Iran. This is not the first time that Iran has suspended pilgrimages to Mecca - Iran took similar steps back in the 1980s in the aftermath of violence in Mecca that killed 400 pilgrims, many of whom were Iranian. There is also a parallel in the war of words between the Kingdom and the Islamic Republic. Back in 1987 there were Iranian calls for changes in who controlled Mecca. In this recent case Ayatullah Javadi Amoli has called for control of Mecca to be taken away from the Saudi's and placed under the control of "men of piety". Ayatullah Amoli is a senior and influential Iranian cleric and his choice of words is interesting. By implying that Mecca is not currently controlled by men of piety, Ayatullah Amoli is essentially accusing the Saudis of impiety. This type of charge is similar to the takfirism (anti-apostasy) practiced by al Qaeda and ISIS - both of which are extremist offshoots of the Wahabbi Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia. With his choice of words Ayatullah Amoli has basically accused the Saudis of being kafirs or apostates. That a senior Twelver Shi'a cleric would use takfiri language in his accusations against the Saudis cannot be considered a coincidence. While it is unlikely that Ayatullah Amoli's call for a change in Mecca's governance will actually bear fruit, his choice of words is a signal to the takfiri jihadis, who are exclusively Sunni, that even the Twelver Shi'a - who are themselves viewed as apostates by the takfiri - see the Saudi's as impious. As has been the case since the US initiated Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) by invading Iraq in 2003, the ongoing tumult in the Levant often produces very strange bedfellows even if it is only in the war of words.
* Image of pilgrims on Hajj at the al Haram Mosque was found here.