Iraq’s top cleric has warned that enemies of Iraq and affiliated groups in the country are plotting to create internal strife and bring the country back to the “era of dictatorship”, an apparent reference to the former rule of Saddam Hussein.
Addressing worshipers during Friday prayers in the holy city of Karbala, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani urged protesters to prevent attacks on people and their property and distance themselves from those committing such acts.
“It is imperative on peaceful demonstrators that they separate their ranks from non-peaceful individuals and cooperate on shunning saboteurs – whoever they are – and not allow them to abuse peaceful protests to damage and attack the property of citizens,” a representative of Ayatollah Sistani said as he delivered the top cleric’s sermon.
“The enemies and their levers, in order to achieve their malicious goals, plan to spread chaos and plunge the country into internal strife and then return it to dictatorship, so everyone must work together to take away this opportunity from them,” he added.
The remarks come two days after rioters, who have been wreaking havoc in various parts of Iraq over the past weeks by infiltrating peaceful protests against corruption and poverty, stormed and set fire to Iran’s diplomatic mission in Najaf.
Observers have expressed concern that the incident is part of a larger US-backed push to destabilize the country.
A few months ago, the Lebanese Arabic-language daily newspaper al-Akhbar reported that Iraqi security sources have uncovered a plan seeking to install a military strongman favored by the US by creating a power vacuum in the country.
The current provocations come amid two months of widespread economic protects and calls for political reform in Iraq.
Also during his statements on Friday, Ayatollah Sistani called on the country’s lawmakers to reconsider their support for the country’s ruling cabinet.
“The parliament, from which this current government is drawn, is asked to reconsider its choice in this regard and act according to Iraq’s interest… (to) preserve the blood of its children,” the top cleric said.
Ayatollah Sistani also reiterated his support for the people’s demands and condemned the use of lethal force against protesters peacefully calling for reforms in the country.
Over 300 people have been killed in the Iraq unrest since October 1, according to the Iraqi parliament’s human rights commission.
Earlier this month, Iraqi Defense Minister Najah al-Shammari told France 24’s Arabic-language channel that a “third party” was behind shootings targeting demonstrators.