Sistani Calls for Iraq-Wide Protests
The BBC reports that Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani has again called for all military forces to be withdrawn from Najaf and Karbala, the two holiest cities for Shiites. His statement seems calculated to put pressure on both sides. He wants the US to stop being so aggressive. And he wants the Muqtada al-Sadr supporters to leave Najaf. Muqtada has apparently called for Shiites to come to Najaf from all over Iraq to make a stand against the Americans, and Sistani is trying to countermand him.
Instead, Sistani is calling for the Shiites to gather at mosques in their own provinces to protest the fighting. (Implicitly this step would equally condemn the US and the Sadrists). The BBC reports that Sistani’s spokesman said:
“It’s permissible… to demand the withdrawal of all military vestiges from the two cities and allow the police and tribal forces to perform their role in preserving security and order,” Mr Sistani said in a rare statement released by his office in Najaf.
“The office of Ayatollah Sistani calls on citizens in all of the cities and governorates not to head to holy Najaf due to the dangerous circumstances that the holy city is passing through,” the statement said.
It urged protesters to convene in mosques and provinces around the country, “to protest violations of the sanctity of the two holy cities”.