After Hajj, Iran-Saudi Rivalry Back On

Despite a successful Hajj that some hoped could trigger a rapprochement, regional animosity appears to have resumed.


Heightened digital attention to the Saudi-Iran rivalry reflects rising regional tensions.

Some have speculated the successful participation of Iranian pilgrims in this year’s Hajj could mark the start of a rapprochement between the two regional enemies. In early September, a leader of Iran’s pilgrimage team thanked the Saudis for their support, and Iran’s Foreign Ministry announced diplomats from both nations would visit the other to inspect their respective diplomatic facilities. 

The bonhomie was short-lived, however. On September 3, Iran’s defense minister said his country would continue to support the “resistance front,” which includes the Shia militia Hezbollah. Two days later the Saudi foreign minister called the possibility of rapprochement “laughable” absent a change in Iranian policy. Moreover, Predata’s tracking of Persian- and Arabic-language attention to the Iran-Saudi rivalry suggests digital audiences on both sides see bilateral tensions as rising. Both the Iranian and Saudi signals, which tend to gain when the two countries are at odds, have been trending upward since August.