Iraq top Shiite cleric raises concern over security pact with US
Iraq's top Shiite cleric said Tuesday that the U.S.-Iraqi security pact would only be viable if the country's main political groups backed it and it restored the country's full sovereignty. This remark by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani came as the 275-seat parliament prepared for a Nov. 24 vote on the pact, which would allow U.S. troops to stay in Iraq for three more years.
Al-Sistani has not publicly taken a clear position on the pact, but he has indicated that it could only work if it is passed by a comfortable majority in parliament.
According to AFP, a senior official close to al-Sistani has said that the cleric, who can bury the agreement if he publicly speaks against it, told two emissaries of Iraqi PM Nouri al Maliki Saturday that while not ideal, the document seemed to be the best possible option. The official said al-Sistani made clear to the two that it would be "unbecoming" for him to speak publicly in favor of the agreement because of his religious status.
The statement said al-Sistani wanted the agreement to secure the "restoration of full sovereignty and the realization of Iraq's stability and security." It also quoted him as saying that he wanted it to "win the support of all Iraqis and their main political groups."
"Any agreement that does not meet those two demands ... cannot be accepted," said al-Sistani, who called on lawmakers to "rise to their historic responsibility before God and the people."