Iraq: Grand Ayatollah Sistani joins Hagel in calling for Arming Sunni Tribes of al-Anbar

By Juan Cole

Al-Zaman (The Times of Baghdad reports that Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistan is calling, just as is US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, for the arming of Sunni tribes in al-Anbar Province to fight ISIL in Iraq. (The Shiite-dominated Iraqi government in Baghdad has been reluctant to move too quickly toward creating Sunni militias, lest they eventually turn on… the Shiite politicians in Baghdad).

Shiite spiritual leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani on Friday called on the Iraqi government to hurry up and help the Sunni tribes in al-Anbar Province that are fighting extremist-Sunni ISIL, which murdered 220 such tribesmen from the Al-Bu Nimr west of Baghdad this week. Sistani said in a sermon read out by his lieutenant in Karbala after Friday prayers that the Iraqi government must hasten to offer support to members of this tribe and other clans that are fighting the terrorists. He added that this action would encourage other tribes to join the fighters that are confronting ISIL.

Karbala’i praised the (Shiite) volunteers who arose to cleanse Iraq from the filth of terrorism and asked that they cooperate with the people of the provinces now dominated by ISIL so as to lift this yoke from them. He said they should cooperate with the (Sunni) inhabitants of the provinces now dominated by ISIL. He said, “You must protect the lives of innocent Iraqi citizens and safeguard their souls and their property, whatever their religious affiliation. They have been given to you for safekeeping, so make them feel secure.” He added, “Beware, beware lest any hand be raised against them or their property, or lest anyone among them come to harm; that is a mortal sin.”

Sistani’s call came a day after US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel urged arming the tribes of al-Anbar Province even before the sending of American advisers to the province, which lies in the west of Iraq, and which is dominated by ISIL.

Meanwhile, sources in Samarra’ north of Baghdad said that a clash had taken place in Old Samarra’ between (Shiite) militias and the city’s (Sunni) residents over the commemoration of the Shiite holy day of Ashura, which honors the martyrdom of Imam Husayn, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, in 680 AD (CE). The militias changed the color of the covering of the Askari Shrine or Golden Dome (where two descendants of Imam Husayn are buried) from green to black during the mourning period.

Sistani warned the Shiite militias who fight alongside the Iraqi army not to harm innocents. This, after evidence surfaced that Shiite militiamen in Jurf al-Sakhr carried out executions based on sectarian identity.

Sheikh Abd al-Mahdi al-Karbala’i, Sistani’s deputy in Karbala, met Friday with a Shiite militia in that city dedicated to preserving the shrine of Imam Husayn. The Shiite equivalents of the Vatican, the shrine cities of Najaf and Karbala, have raised militias dedicated to combatting ISIL. This is the first time the Shiite hierarchy in Iraq has used worldwide religious donations by believers to fund a paramilitary activity. People there are afraid of being targeted by ISIL.

In Iran’s capital, Tehran, Ayatollah Kazim Sadiqi said that the conquest this week of the Sunni city of Jurf al-Sakhr northwest of Karbala was a victory for the people and the Iraqi army. Iran is a largely Shiite country with close ties to Iraqi Shiites, who form 60% of the Iraqi population but mainly live in Baghdad and the south. In Qom, a center for religious study and learning in Iran, Ayatollah Husain Nuri Hamdani praised Qasim Sulaimani, the head of the Jerusalem Brigade special forces of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, for the operations he has undertaken against ISIL in Syria and Iraq.

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Related video:

PressTV: “Iraq’s top Shia cleric tells fighters to protects civilians of all confessions”

7 Responses

  1. Grand Ayatollah Sistani is the most powerful man in Iraq, no question. In January, 2004, Sistani forced the Bush administration to allow one man, one vote by putting on two demonstrations. The first one, 30,000 marching in Basra. The very next day, 100,000 marched in Baghdad. The message was clear, if Sistani wanted half a million men marching on the streets, they would be lined up at the crack of dawn. The Bush gang had no choice but to roll over for Sistani.

    That was the real story of the purple thumb election.

    The Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani…”You MUST protect the lives of innocent Iraqi citizens and safeguard their souls and their property, whatever their religious affiliation. They have been given to you for safekeeping, so make them feel secure. BEWARE, BEWARE lest any hand be raised against them, or their property, or lest anyone among them comes to harm; THAT IS A MORTAL SIN.”

    In other words, any Shia who doesn’t heed the warning of the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani WILL BURN IN HELL.

    Those ISIS gangsters should be VERY worried.

  2. In a way I agree with the Grand Ayatollah to arm the Sunni tribes and help them during this difficult time. Something needs to be done and the Ayatollah is a powerful man and voice. But on the other hand it is hard for me to understand how arming them will bring this conflict to a resolution. More guns only means more deaths and more fighting. There has to be another solution between arming them and doing nothing. The government needs to take better control of this situation and come up with a non violent solution. Violence in my opinion only leads to more violence. There has to be a diplomatic way to end this conflict, otherwise it may go on for a long time. I know the Ayatollah is in favor of peace, but now he is advocating for additional weapons to make this fight fairer. Extremist terrorist groups only grow out of violence and become a bigger threat to the world.

  3. Sistani has warned against Shia fighters committing violence against innocent Sunnis. At he same time, he realizes ISIS doesn’t negotiate and there can be no diplomatic solution. Western Iraq is similar to Kobani. If ISIS wins they slaughter the losers and move on to the next target. ISIS is using mass murder to intimidate other Sunni tribes in Anbar province.

    The biggest problem is really one of coordination between Shia, Sunnis and Americans. ISIS could be attacked on several different fronts until they are weakened substantially and can’t expand. ISIS needs a constant supply of troops, weapons and money. A coordinated effort like the allies used against the Nazis in WWII or U.S.Grant used to defeat the Confederacy would probably be the best out of a list of bad options. If that doesn’t happen, Iraq will be facing the same kind of nightmare as Syria with different factions fighting each other for years to come.

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