Aides say Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is angry and disappointed that Shias are ignoring his calls for calm and are switching their allegiance in their thousands to more militant groups which promise protection from Sunni violence and revenge for attacks.
“I will not be a political leader any more,” he told aides. “I am only happy to receive questions about religious matters.”
It is a devastating blow to the remaining hopes for a peaceful solution in Iraq and spells trouble for British forces, who are based in and around the Shia stronghold of Basra.
….Ali al-Jaberi, a spokesman for the cleric in Khadamiyah, said that he was furious that his followers had turned away from him and ignored his calls for moderation.
….He said a series of snubs had contributed to Ayatollah al-Sistani’s decision. “He asked the politicians to ask the Americans to make a timetable for leaving but they disappointed him,” he said. “After the war, the politicians were visiting him every month. If they wanted to do something, they visited him. But no one has visited him for two or three months. He is very angry that this is happening now. He sees this as very bad.”
I don’t have the chops to figure out just what this means, but every possible interpretation seems to be negative to one degree or another. In any case, given Sistani’s role in Iraqi politics, this seems like a noteworthy development.
UPDATE: Eric Martin has more.