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

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.


German defense minister rejects Turkey complaint over Libya weapons ship search

Updated 24 November 2020

German defense minister rejects Turkey complaint over Libya weapons ship search

  • Germany insists it acted correctly in boarding a Turkish ship to enforce arms embargo of Libya
  • Turkey summoned European diplomats to complain at the operation

BERLIN: Germany’s defense minister on Tuesday rejected Turkey’s complaints over the search of a Turkish freighter in the Mediterranean Sea by a German frigate participating in a European mission, insisting that German sailors acted correctly.
Sunday’s incident prompted Turkey to summon diplomats representing the European Union, Germany and Italy and assert that the Libya-bound freighter Rosaline-A was subjected to an “illegal” search by personnel from the German frigate Hamburg. The German ship is part of the European Union’s Irini naval mission, which is enforcing an arms embargo against Libya.
German officials say that the order to board the ship came from Irini’s headquarters in Rome and that Turkey protested while the team was on board. The search was then ended.
Turkey says the search was “unauthorized and conducted by force.”
German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer backed the German crew’s actions.
“It is important to me to make really clear that the Bundeswehr soldiers behaved completely correctly,” she said during an appearance in Berlin. “They did what is asked of them in the framework of the European Irini mandate.”
“That there is this debate with the Turkish side points to one of the fundamental problems of this European mission,” Kramp-Karrenbauer added, without elaborating. “But it is very important to me to say clearly here that there are no grounds for these accusations that are now being made against the soldiers.”
This was the second incident between Turkey and naval forces from a NATO ally enforcing an arms blockade against Libya.
In June, NATO launched an investigation over an incident between Turkish warships and a French naval vessel in the Mediterranean, after France said one of its frigates was “lit up” three times by Turkish naval targeting radar when it tried to approach a Turkish civilian ship suspected of involvement in arms trafficking.
Turkey supports a UN-backed government in Tripoli against rival forces based in the country’s east. It has complained that the EU naval operation focuses its efforts too much on the Tripoli administration and turns a blind eye to weapons sent to the eastern-based forces.
In Ankara, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said that Irini was “flawed from the onset.”
“It is not based on firm international legal foundations,” Akar said. He renewed Turkey’s criticism of the German ship’s actions.
“The incident was against international laws and practices. It was wrong,” he said.
Kramp-Karrenbauer stressed that “Turkey is still an important partner for us in NATO.” Turkey being outside the military alliance would make the situation even more difficult, she argued, and Turkish soldiers are “absolutely reliable partners” in NATO missions.
But she conceded that Turkey poses “a big challenge” because of how its domestic politics have developed and because it has its “own agenda, which is difficult to reconcile with European questions in particular.”