All systems go for Al-Sadr — and civil war. “Iraq’s grand ayatollah declines to bless Shiite-Sunni-Kurd bloc: Al-Sistani’s refusal is a setback for politicians hoping to isolate al-Sadr, an anti-U.S. cleric,” by Qassim Abdul-Zahra for The Associated Press, with thanks to Twostellas:
BAGHDAD, Iraq — Iraq’s most revered Shiite cleric withheld support Saturday for a U.S.-backed plan to build a coalition across sectarian lines, Shiite lawmakers said, jeopardizing hopes that such a show of political unity could help stem the country’s deadly violence.
Members of the United Iraqi Alliance, the Shiite coalition that dominates parliament, met with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf after traveling to the holy city over the past few days. Al-Sistani holds no political post and rarely emerges from his home and adjacent office, but he has strong influence over Shiite politics.
Some members of the Shiite alliance have sought a coalition that would include Kurds and Sunnis, and sideline Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shiite cleric whose militia is blamed for much of Iraq’s sectarian violence. Lawmakers who attended the meeting with al-Sistani said the cleric opposed any move that would divide Shiites.
“There are obstacles in the face of forming this coalition, because al-Sistani does not support it. So we will work to strengthen the (Shiite) alliance,” said Hassan al-Sunnaid, of the Dawa Party of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Ali al-Adib, also a Dawa Party member, said al-Sistani “does not support such blocs because they will break Shiite unity.”
An official close to al-Sistani, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said the cleric “will not bless nor support any new bloc or front. He only supports the unity of the Shiites.”