Sistani threatens to turn to Militia
Sadr Calls for Calm
The shoe seems to be on the other foot now, with Muqtada al-Sadr attempting to cool Iraq’s Shiites down and Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani threatening to create a paramilitary to protect Shiites.
Al-=Hayat says that [Ar.] the Sunni cleric Abdul Ghafur al-Samarra’i led a demonstration of Sunnis in Samarra’ in protest against the “Excommunicators” for having attempted to set off a sectarian civil war in Iraq by bombing the shrine. They also blamed “the Americans”. Al-Samarra’i asked for restraint and the avoidance of civil war. Sunni and Shiite demonstrators in the city (but presumably mostly Shiite) chanted “With our spirits and our blood, we sacrifice ourselves for you, O Imam!” [Bi'r-ruh wa'd-dam nufdika ya Imam!]
The ministers of defense and the interior made a joint announcement that the Iraqi armed forces had been put on alert for any contingency.
Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani was shown on Iraqiyah television meeting with the other 3 grand ayatollahs in Najaf, among whom he is first among equals. They include Bashir Najafi, Muhammad Ishaq Fayyad and Muhammad Sa`id al-Hakim. Sistani called for self-discipline and for peaceful demonstrations. He said Shiites must not attack Sunni mosques, but called for them to demonstrate peacefully. He laid responsibility for security on the Iraqi government, saying that it “is called today more than at any time in the past to shoulder its full responsibilities in stopping the series of criminal actions that have targeted holy spaces. If the security apparatuses are unable to safeguard against this crisis, the believers are able to do so, by the aid of God.”
Astonishingly, Sistani seems to be threatening to deploy his own militia, Ansar Sistani, if the Iraqi government doesn’t do a better job of protecting Shiites and their holy sites. One lesson Sistani will have taken from the bombing of the Askariyah shrine in Samarra is that he is not very secure in Najaf, either. But all we need in Iraq is yet another powerful private sectarian militia!
Muqtada al-Sadr had been in Lebanon. He cut short his trip and went overland to Iraq. He told the Syrian news agency that he condemns this “despicable crime” and called the Iraqi people to “unity and solidarity so as to deny any opportunity to those who wish to ignite public turmoil.”
Abdul Aziz al-Hakim said during a press conference in Baghdad that the statements of the US ambassador in Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, had “contributed to greater pressure [on the Shiites] and gave a green light to terrorist groups, and he therefore bears a part of the responsibility.” Al-Hakim has long wanted to unleash the Badr Corps, his Shiite paramilitary, the Badr Corps, but has been checked by the Americans so far.
The Association of Muslim Scholars [hardline Sunni] called for calm but then blamed the Americans for the downward spiral of conditions.
After Supreme Jurisprudent Ali Khamenei blamed the US and Israel for the bombing on Wednesday, Shiites all over the world staged demonstrations in some of which they burned US and Israeli flags.
On the other hand, the thousands of protester in Bahrain blamed Sunni “excommunicators” instead.