Iraqi Shia Clerics Call for Calm in Baghdad-Erbil Confrontation

Article Summary
Iraqi Shiite religious leaders have called on Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government to calm tensions.

Prior to the visit of Iraqi parliament speaker Usama al-Nujayfi to the Kurdistan region in order to defuse the crisis between Erbil and Baghdad, Shiite authorities entered the picture.

The supreme authority Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani called on the central government to "be patient and stay away from bloody conflicts." For his part, Ayatollah Hussein al-Sadr mentioned previous fatwas issued by senior authorities that prohibited fighting the Kurds.

The federal Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki accused officials in Kurdistan of escalation "without any consideration of the interests of the Kurdish people."

In a statement yesterday [Dec. 4], Sistani called on Maliki to “be patient and refrain from pushing Iraqis into any bloody conflict, which would only harm the people.”

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Furthermore, Ayatollah Hussein Ismail al-Sadr said in a statement yesterday that the authorities are “committed to the fatwa of Ayatollah Mohsen al-Hakim and his uncle the martyr Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr prohibiting fighting the Kurds. The fatwa was issued during the 1960s." He emphasized his commitment to "put in place efforts to bridge the gap between the two parties and adopt dialogue under the governorship of the constitution, the principles of brotherhood and the long record of struggle that weighed down the oppressed.

"The Shiite-Kurdish alliance is not a sectarian nationalist alliance. Rather, it is a struggle that aims to achieve rights, bring about justice and protect the vulnerable and the disadvantaged who fell prey to the unjust authorities," he said.

He expressed hope that "wisdom and reason will triumph and the logic of dialogue will prevail, away from any arm twisting." He asked for the implementation of "the fatwa of Mr. Hakim and his uncle (i.e., Hussein al-Sadr's uncle) that prohibits fighting the Kurds and obliges all parties to explore means of consensus with the aim of building a democratic Iraqi state that should not be unfair to any citizen, regardless of their sect or nationality."

Sheikh Ali Najafi, son of Ayatollah Basheer Najafi, said in remarks published yesterday that the authorities had received letters from Kurdish leaders regarding the crisis. He pointed out that "the letters are still being discussed," and that "the religious authorities are behaving with wisdom in order to avoid bloodshed. There are essential perspectives that they will be based on." He then added, “They have always been characterized by wisdom in dealing with issues whenever the unity of the Iraqi people is at stake. Maintaining stability is their first priority."

However, Muqtada al-Sadr, leader of the Sadrist movement, issued a statement yesterday [Dec. 4] criticizing Maliki's recent statements about the crisis with the Kurds and the Russian arms deal. He stressed the need to “buy arms with the aim of defending Iraq, not the Tigris Operations Command forces, or others. Moreover, the purchase of arms must not be carried out for electoral purposes."

He said he would only support arming the Iraqi army provided that "arms are not bought from a country occupying Iraq, that they should not be corrupt, old or bought at double the price. Moreover, the integrity of the deal is of great importance." He concluded by saying that Maliki's remarks are "a clear threat and a grave mistake that should not be repeated." He said, "It is better for him to change his words and address his partners in a better way.”

A source in the Kurdistan Alliance announced yesterday [Dec. 4] that "Nujayfi is going this afternoon (yesterday) to the city of Erbil in order to meet with Kurdish regional President Massoud Barzani in the framework of his initiative to settle the dispute between the central government and the [Kurdistan] region." Nujayfi had launched an initiative and met with Maliki twice following his meeting with Barzani.

Maliki issued a statement on the evening of [Dec. 3] accusing the Kurdistan Regional Government of "moving military forces, attempting to displace some families from Kirkuk and sending warnings to them."

He said that "the harassment that the citizens are suffering from while living there or moving in or out of the region indicate that there is no genuine desire to find solutions. They are a sign of escalation attempts aimed at mobilization on the part of private officials away from the interests of the Kurdish people and their right to security and stability."

Maliki called on the "officials there to stop such acts and pay attention to the seriousness of such behavior and the risks it could entail."

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Found in: shiites, peshmerga, massoud barzani, kurdistan
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