Saudi Arabia Invites Muslims from Iran to Holy Pilgrimage in Mecca

Iran's Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization says Iranians will be attending this year's Hajj after Saudi officials agreed to make the necessary arrangements for Iranian pilgrims to participate in the rituals.

The news agency said the kingdom had completed all arrangements for the Iranian pilgrims to return, without offering details.

A top military general from Saudi Arabia says Riyadh has secured a commitment from the Trump administration to significantly increase US intelligence sharing and defense cooperation against Iran-backed proxy militias and other Iranian meddling across the the Middle East.

Custodian of Islam's holiest sites in Mecca and Medina, Saudi Arabia organises the annual Hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam which every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to is obliged to undertake at least once in a lifetime.

Riyadh and Tehran don't enjoy diplomatic relations, and tensions between the Middle Eastern powers have swelled amid regional conflicts between Sunnis and Shiites in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Bahrain. Riyadh said 769 pilgrims were killed in the 2015 disaster - the highest Hajj death toll since a crush in 1990. Iran had blamed it on organisational incompetence. In retaliation, Tehran allowed Iranian demonstrators to sack and burn the Saudi Embassy in Iran, leading to the complete severing of diplomatic ties.

Hajj in Saudi Arabia.

US backing for the Saudi-led campaign, meanwhile, was a point of contention for the Obama administration, which tacitly supported the Saudis all while pushing through a major global nuclear accord that world powers reached with Iran in 2015.

"Required conditions have been met for more than 85,000 Iranian pilgrims to attend Hajj in the (Iranian calendar) year 1396 (which starts on March 21)", read part of an announcement by Iran's Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization on Friday.

The most notable case of this occurring was a protest organised by the Iranians that descended into violence in 1987.

  • Carolyn Briggs