Reuters reports: With Iraq’s politicians tainted by corruption and the army’s standing hurt by battlefield defeats, two Shi’ite clerics have re-emerged as leaders in matters of state.
In their different ways, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and Hojatoleslam Moqtada al-Sadr, Iraq’s two most influential Shi’ite leaders, are pressuring Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to tackle graft at the heart of Iraq’s government.
The timing of their intervention is delicate.
If Abadi fails to satisfy Sistani and Sadr by delivering long-promised anti-corruption measures, his government may be weakened just as Iraqi forces are gearing up to fight for the largest city under Islamic State control – Mosul.
In recent weeks both clerics have increased pressure on Abadi. Sistani signaled his displeasure in January by saying his voice had “become sore” with repeating his calls for reforms. On Feb. 5, he said he would no longer deliver weekly sermons about political affairs, and he has been only addressing religious matters since.
Sadr followed up by escalating street protests.
Unlike in neighboring Iran “there is no role in the Iraqi constitution for the clerics,” said Sajad Jiyad, a Baghdad-based political analyst who advises the government. “They are playing an increasing role because the political class is discredited and no strongman can rise from the army like in the past.” [Continue reading…]