Some have interpreted this as a blow to Iranian ambitions in Iraq, but given that Sistani is shipping large sums to Iran, I rather think that it is an indication that he now believes that Iranian power in Iraq can be consolidated without these militias.
“Cleric Calls for End to Militias,” from the LA Times, with thanks to all who sent this in:
BAGHDAD “” Iraq’s senior Shiite Muslim religious figure Thursday called on the country’s controversial militias to disarm, marking one of the most overt forays into matters of politics and policy by the influential cleric.
Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, regarded as the moral voice of Iraq’s Shiite majority, called for a government of technocrats rather than political loyalists or sectarian interests and said that only government forces should be permitted to carry weapons on the streets.
“Weapons must be in the hands of government security forces that should not be tied to political parties but to the nation,” said the Iranian-born Sistani in a statement released by his office in Najaf after he met with the newly designated prime minister. “The first task for the government is fighting insecurity and putting an end to the terrorist acts that threaten innocents with death and kidnapping.”
Sistani’s views, representative of the clerical leadership based in the seminary city of Najaf, seemed to echo the statements of U.S. leaders who are eager to stem the cycle of sectarian violence and chaos so that they can begin withdrawing American-led military forces. But Sistani’s statement alarmed many secular and Sunni Iraqis who fear increased involvement of powerful Shiite clerics in matters of state.