The chorus for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of Iraq to step down grew louder on Friday, as Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani of Najaf had his representative in Karbala read a Friday prayers sermon in which he called for Parliament to meet and choose a prime minister who can lead a government of national unity. Shaikh Ahmad al-Safi said that the deadline for parliament to meet, 15 days after the certification of the elections, should be strictly adhered to.
The statement did not explicitly call for the unseating of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, but it hints pretty broadly that someone else who could actually hold together a government of national unity should be elected by parliament.
At the same time, Muhammad al-Sadr, the son of the founder of the Da`wa Party, called on al-Maliki to step aside.
In contrast, a Da’wa Party official responded to a question about the fatwa by saying that “There is no candidate for prime minister save al-Maliki.”
In a statement on Friday, Sistani’s office issued a clarification of the statement of the previous week that called on young men to enlist in the army. The statement said that the call was directed to all Iraqis, not just the Shiites, and that it had not been intended to help the sectarian militias but only the national army. The new statement asked all Iraqis, especially those living in mixed neighborhoods, to avoid any conflict of a sectarian sort. It also apologized for the inability of the army actually to deal with so many volunteers and urged tha latter to get its act together.
On Saturday morning in Baghdad’s eastern district of Sadr City, a militia loyal to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr was formed and carried out exercises and mounted a spectacle. They called themselves the “Peace Brigades,” and their role is to protect holy sites and houses of worship belonging to all the religious groups of Iraq. Guerrillas of the fundamentalist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have already destroyed tombs and shrines in Mosul and have threatened to raze Shiite shrines.