Shia is the majority religion of both Iran and Iraq. A Sunni Muslim, Saddam Hussein severely restricted pilgrimages from Iran. Iranian visitors could only make arrangements through special travel agencies and, while in the holy cities, were always under the intense scrutiny of Saddam’s security services. Visitors could only stay for three days. Pilgrimages were not permitted during the Iran-Iraq War from 1980-88. Iran closed its border with Iraq in March 2003 with the onset of U.S. forces, but reopened it in September 2003 to reduce illegal crossings.