Iraq’s Top Cleric Condemns U.S., Iran Attacks, Warns of Internal Stand-off

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A months-long political stand-off in Iraq has created the conditions that allowed recent U.S. and Iranian attacks in the country, argued Iraq’s most influential Shiite cleric, Ali al-Sistani, on Friday.

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Last week, the U.S. killed a top Iranian commander in an airstrike in Baghdad.

Iran retaliated by launching missile attacks against Iraqi military bases hosting American troops.

“The recent dangerous aggressions and repeated violations of Iraqi sovereignty, as well as authorities’ obvious weakness in protecting the country and its people from such aggression and violations, are part of the current crisis,” al-Sistani said in a sermon in the southern city of Karbala.

Iraq has been roiled by street protests since early October, with demonstrators calling for the resignation of the government, the dissolution of parliament, and an overhaul of the country’s political system, which has been in place since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

In response to pressure from al-Sistani, Adel Abdel-Mahdi resigned as Iraq’s prime minister.

However, Abdel-Mahdi remains in office in a caretaker status.

Efforts to pick a replacement are still stymied due to bickering among Iraqi political rivals.

Al-Sistani warned on Friday that the continuation of the political crisis could worsen the situation in Iraq and allow “others” to further meddle in the country’s affairs.

“Everyone should show a sense of patriotic responsibility and translate it into influential stances to provide a solution to the current crisis, responding to demands of reform,” he added.

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Al-Sistani’s views are closely followed in Iraq and have an influence on the country’s politicians.

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