Al-Arabia – Iraq’s top Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani warned foreign actors on Friday against interfering in anti-government protests that erupted early last month and urged political factions to avoid “infighting.”
“No person or group, no side with a particular view, no regional or international actor may seize the will of the Iraqi people and impose its will on them,” al-Sistani said in his weekly sermon read by a representative.
It comes after comments by Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday in which he urged protesters in both Iraq and Lebanon to pursue their demands through “legal frameworks.”
Iraq has close but complicated ties with neighboring Iran but also with Tehran’s sworn foe Washington.
Since rallies against corruption and unemployment broke out on October 1, demonstrators and their detractors have accused each other of being backed by outside actors.
Al-Sistani on Friday condemned the violence and said Iraq must not be dragged into the “abyss of infighting.”
“I urge the relevant parties not to push armed forces in how they deal with the strikes and peaceful protests,” he said.
Last Friday, al-Sistani, urged both protesters and security forces to exercise “restraint” to keep renewed demonstrations from degenerating into “chaos.”
Protesters set fire to offices belonging to a Shia political party and a Shia militia group in Iraq’s southern Muthanna province on Friday, police sources said. Security forces attempted to dispel the demonstrators with tear gas.
On Wednesday, a national rights commission said at least 100 people have died and more than 5,000 injured since anti-government demonstrations resumed in Iraq on October 24.