Iraq’s top cleric warns Abadi: Introduce reforms or protesters will fix officials

Iraqi Security forces besiege protesters during a demonstration in the West Qurna 2 oilfield in north of Basra, Iraq July 26, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 28 July 2018
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Iraq’s top cleric warns Abadi: Introduce reforms or protesters will fix officials

  • Al-Sistani also encouraged the incumbent government of Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi to respond urgently to protesters’ demands
  • Al-Sistani, a reclusive octogenarian, is revered by millions of Shiite Muslims in Iraq and abroad

BAGHDAD: Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, Iraq’s most influential Shiite cleric, has called for a government to be formed as soon as possible to tackle corruption and improve basic services.

In a Friday sermon delivered by a representative, Sistani also challenged the caretaker administration of Prime Minister Haider Abadi to respond to protesters’ fears following widespread demonstrations in the Shiite-dominated southern provinces and Baghdad.

“The current government must work hard, urgently, to reduce citizens’ suffering and misery,” Sistani’s representative, Sheikh Abdulmahdi Al-Karbala’ie, said in the Shiite holy city of Kerbala.

Anger in Iraq is mounting as politicians struggle to form a government following the May 12 election, which was marred by allegations of fraud, prompting a recount.

The cleric’s Friday message was the clearest and most detailed call for government reform since 2015. 

“If the government or Parliament ... do not meet the reformations, the people will have to escalate their peaceful protests to impose their will on the officials,” Al-Karbala’ie said.

“We hope that there will be no need for this (escalation), and that the decision-makers ... get the matter resolved before it is too late.”

Abadi, who is seeking a second term in office, is heading a fragile caretaker government until a new administration is formed.

Sistani is the most influential figure in Iraq and his support is essential for any government. The cleric is seen by most Iraqis as the “godfather” of political changes that have taken place in the country since 2003. 

Thousands of people have protested this month in cities in the long-neglected south, Iraq’s Shiite heartland, against the lack of basic services, and high rates of poverty and unemployment. Protests over the same issues have occurred in the past, but the unrest this time is more widespread.

“Fighting (the corruption) will be his (the PM’s) first duty and his essential mission, waging a relentless war on corrupt (officials) and their protectors,” Al-Karbala’ie said.

Sistani also called on the next prime minister to expand the role of the Commission of Integrity and other regulatory bodies “to combat corruption and stand against the corrupt.”

Iraq has been at the top of the list of the world’s most corrupt countries for more than a decade.


Israel’s Netanyahu to meet Egypt’s El-Sisi in New York -Israeli official

Updated 25 min 3 sec ago
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Israel’s Netanyahu to meet Egypt’s El-Sisi in New York -Israeli official

  • Netanyahu and El-Sisi met in public for the first time in 2017
  • Netanyahu travels to New York on Tuesday and will also meet with US President Donald Trump

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, an Israeli official said on Monday.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, did not provide further details. Egyptian officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
Netanyahu travels to New York on Tuesday and will also meet with US President Donald Trump.
Netanyahu and El-Sisi met in public for the first time in 2017. Egypt was the first of a handful of Arab countries to recognize Israel under a US-sponsored peace accord in 1979 and the two countries maintain close co-ordination on security.