Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, head of Iran’s Expediency Council, has said that to resolve many of the issues plaguing the Middle East, there needs to be cooperation between the two regional rivals, Iran and Saudi Arabia. In an extensive interview with Mehr News Agency, when Rafsanjani was asked about Iran-Saudi relations, he said that after statements by Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati about the passing of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, “The situation became worse.”
During Friday prayers, in a dig at Rafsanjani, Jannati said of the passing of the king that condolences must be sent to the United States, Israel and “those inside who eat from his table,” and “congratulations” must be given to the faithful. Jannati’s comments were condemned by the Gulf Cooperation Council and even some Shiite religious leaders in Iran. Iranian opposition website Saham reported that as a result of Jannati’s comments, Iranian clerics who lead groups to Mecca were prevented from entering Saudi Arabia and that other Iranian clerics were even strip-searched inside the country.
The statement demonstrated the animosity between the two countries and the common knowledge inside Iran that Rafsanjani has been lobbying to improve relations.
This article was written by Arash Karami for Al-Monitor on Feb. 23, 2015. Arash Karami is the editor of Al-Monitor’s Iran Pulse and covers the Iranian media for Iran Pulse. You can also find him here @thekarami