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There's A Whole Bunch Of Anti-Saudi Posters Popping Up In Iraq

The ads are just a small part in a growing war of words between Saudi Arabia and Iran over just who's to blame for sectarianism in the region.

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For those of you just tuning in, Saudi Arabia and Iran are nobody's idea of BFFs. For much of the last decade, the two have been locked in an increasingly perilous struggle for regional dominance in the Middle East.

Hasan Sarbakhshian / ASSOCIATED PRESS / / AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed

For a bunch of reasons as to why that is, just read this. The short version: it's both geopolitical and tied to religion.

Saudi Arabia's place in Islam as the home of Mecca, the religion's holiest city, has become a flashpoint for the two, following a deadly stampede last year.

Str / AFP / Getty Images

The stampede left at least 2,200 pilgrims dead, including hundreds of Iranians, enraging authorities in Tehran who accused authorities in Riyadh of negligence. This year, after quiet negotiations failed, no pilgrims from Iran were allowed to travel to Mecca to perform hajj, a religious obligation for Muslims.

Ahead of this year's pilgrimage, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei unleashed one of his most ferocious anti-Saudi tirades yet.

Morteza Nikoubazl / Reuters

In his September 5 speech, he described the Saudi royal family as “fitna*-promoting rulers” who are forming and arming “wicked takfiri** groups” that have plunged the Islamic world into civil wars, condemning “godless [Saudi] politicians who have extended the hand of friendship towards the Zionist regime.”

“The world of Islam, including Muslim governments and peoples, must familiarize themselves with the Saudi rulers and correctly understand their blasphemous, faithless, dependent and materialistic nature,” Khamenei said in his speech. “They must not let those rulers escape responsibility for the crimes they have caused throughout the world of Islam.”

* "fitna" is loosely translated as "discord"

** A "takfiri" is a Sunni Muslim who accuses another Muslim of being an apostate, or someone who's abandoned their faith

Iranian allies in Iraq followed the speech by erecting anti-Saudi posters all over the capital, Baghdad.

Anti-#Saudi posters on billboards, appeared in #Baghdad,#Iraq #KSA 📸

One featured the green swords of the Saudi flag laid out in the shape of the Star of David, describing the royal family as “evil progeny” who’ve hijacked the hajj from other Muslims.

Common Iran-style billboards in Baghdad nowadays, comparing Saudi Arabia to ISIS, al-Qaeda and of course Jews. #Iraq

And on Thursday, Khamenei's Facebook page posted this image with an explanation of why the term "evil progeny" was being thrown around.

facebook.com

"Saudi Arabia is a close ally to the United States and Zionist regime and actively supports, funds and arms Al-Qaeda and ISIL, is red-handed in killing of innocent civilians in Yemen, and displayed monumental incompetence in the case of Mina stampede in September 2015, and before that, in the crane collapse, which totally killed more than 6,000 hajj pilgrims along with 1987 opening fire on rallying hajj pilgrims from Iran and other countries," the post concludes.

Saudi Arabia was more than willing to put the ball back in Iran's court on Friday, saying it was they who had stirred up sectarianism in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister Adel al Jubeir blames #Iran for creating sectarianism in Middle East.

Foreign Minister Adel al Jubeir's accusation came a day after his fellow Arab foreign ministers issued a statement condemning Khamenei’s speech “in the strongest terms,” and reaffirmed Saudi authority over Hajj.

The latest round of the spat between the two will continue to extend beyond their borders, affecting people in Syria, Bahrain, Yemen, and Iraq.

Hayes Brown is a world news editor and reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Hayes Brown at hayes.brown@buzzfeed.com.

Borzou Daragahi is a Middle East correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in Istanbul.

Contact Borzou Daragahi at borzou.daragahi@buzzfeed.com.

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