BAGHDAD: Iraq’s top religious scholar called again on his countrymen Friday to unite against the “big danger” posed by ISIS militants, whose advances prompted U.S. President Barack Obama to authorize limited airstrikes targeting the Al-Qaeda splinter group.
In a weekly Friday sermon delivered through a spokesman in the holy Shiite city of Karbala, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani blamed Iraqi politicians for Iraq’s biggest crisis since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, saying that they are motivated by self-interest.
“All Iraqis should unify ranks and intensify efforts in the face of this great danger that threatens their present and future,” Sistani said.
ISIS swept through northern Iraq in June, almost unopposed by Iraq’s U.S.-funded and trained army, and has made gains since then, causing the flight of Christian, Yezidi, and Turkmen minority communities, among others.
Friday’s sermon marks the second time that Sistani has called on Iraqis to stand up to ISIS, which has threatened to march on Baghdad and wants to reshape the map of the Middle East in an effort to impose its radical ideology.
Sistani also said that politicians who continue to cling to their posts are making a “grave mistake,” piling pressure on Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to drop his bid for a third term.
Sistani urged politicians to stop bickering among themselves and choose a prime minister who could unite Iraqis and end the crisis posed by the jihadist insurgents.
“All political parties should know that conflicts and differences among each other – which in many times have no justification but self-interest or sectarian or national interests – have caused the weakening of everybody and opened the door for the terrorists,” he said.
According to recent media reports, Maliki has even rebuffed Iranian officials seeking to convince him to step down, although Tehran appears to be facing challenges in producing a viable alternative to the incumbent.