Iraq's top Shi'ite cleric tells Rouhani ties must respect sovereignty

By REUTERS
March 13, 2019 17:17
2 minute read.
Breaking news

Breaking news. (photo credit: JPOST STAFF)

 
X

Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analysis from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief

UPGRADE YOUR JPOST EXPERIENCE FOR 5$ PER MONTH Show me later

Iraq's top Shi'ite cleric told Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday that Iraqi sovereignty must be respected and weapons kept in state hands, a veiled reference to increasingly influential Iran-backed militias.

It was the first meeting between an Iranian president and the 88-year-old Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who rarely weighs in on politics but exerts wide influence over Iraqi public opinion.Sistani welcomed "any steps to strengthen Iraq's relations with its neighbors ... based on respect for the sovereignty of the countries and no interference in domestic affairs," a statement from his office said.

"The most important challenges facing Iraq are fighting corruption, improving services and keeping weapons in the hands of the state and its security services," it added.

The meeting came on the third day of a visit by Rouhani to Iraq which aimed to project Iran's political and economic dominance in Baghdad and expand commercial ties to help offset renewed U.S. sanctions meant to isolate and weaken Tehran.

Iran and Iraq, both majority Shi'ite Muslim countries, signed several preliminary trade accords on Monday, Iraqi officials said, including deals on oil, health, and a railway linking the southern Iraqi oil city of Basra and an Iranian border town.

Sistani's comments will chime with the concerns of many Iraqis that powerful Shi'ite militias, which are increasing their military and political influence after the defeat of Sunni Muslim extremist group Islamic State (IS), remain subservient to their Iranian patrons.



Sistani issued a decree in 2014 calling up Iraqis to volunteer to fight against Islamic State. Many answered the call, joining mostly Shi'ite paramilitary groups.

Since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003, Iran has come to dominate Iraqi politics through allies in the government and parliament and has built up considerable influence over parts of the security forces.

Dozens of mainly Iran-backed paramilitary groups which played a key role in defeating IS in 2017 were brought formally into the security forces last year. Critics say they have also begun to control parts of the economy. The groups deny this.

Iran is striving to shore up control of a corridor of territory from Tehran through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon where it holds sway through allies including those militias.

Most Iran-backed Iraqi militias say they are no longer funded or equipped by Iran and serve only to defend Iraq and its Shi'ite holy sites.

Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>

Related Content

Breaking news
March 26, 2019
Israeli security forces arrest nine Palestinians during nightly raid

By JERUSALEM POST STAFF