The Defeat of ISIS in Iraq and the role of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani
Murad Makhmudov and Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the most senior holy Shia religious leader in Iraq, openly declared a religious fatwa against Takfiri Islamists that threatened to overrun this nation. Hence, the Grand Ayatollah appealed for the mobilization of all sections of society in Iraq to defend the nation from ISIS (Islamic State – IS) in 2014. Therefore, while certain NATO powers are praising their role in bombing ISIS in Mosul in 2017 – just like Iran that helped Iraq during its hour of need – the role of Grand Ayatollah Sistani can’t be underestimated because his words a few years ago enabled a real resistance to emerge.
Ironically, despite certain negative comments by several Gulf powers and radical Sunni Islamist clerics, the role of Grand Ayatollah Sistani meant that Iran’s role would decrease. Of course, the role of Iran is extremely significant because when ISIS was gaining in strength in Iraq, it was this nation that assisted the political elites in Iraq. After all, the former President Obama of America was in confusion mode – while various Gulf and NATO powers were destabilizing Syria by supporting various Sunni Takfiri forces.
The situation by the middle of 2014 was extremely fraught in Iraq because ISIS was spreading its sectarian and Takfiri tentacles. At the same time, units in the armed forces of Iraq appeared weak and extremely nervous.
Grand Ayatollah Sistani knew full well that a defensive call to arms was needed. Given this reality, a representative of this holy leader in Karbala said, “Citizens who are able to bear arms and fight terrorists, defending their country and their people and their holy places, should volunteer and join the security forces to achieve this holy purpose.”
Immediately, tens of thousands of Shia Muslims answered the call and the same applies to Sunni Muslims joining the fight against ISIS. The situation was extremely tense with ISIS encroaching further by the middle of 2014.
Indeed, the BBC summed up the situation in 2014 by reporting, “Fear is the thing that you feel the most as you walk through Baghdad’s streets, as the militants come closer. People here are buying supplies and staying in front of their television sets… Many Iraqis no longer trust their national army after soldiers retreated from the ISIS advance. It’s certainly not the same Baghdad it has been in the last few years.”
In a single stroke, Grand Ayatollah Sistani altered the dynamics on the ground and reinvigorated the fight against ISIS. Equally important, the religious fatwa enabled various Shia militias, tribal leaders following the Sunni faith, armed Yazidis, and Christians to come under the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF).
Immediately after the fall of Mosul in recent days in 2017, the government of Iran and military personnel praised the role of Grand Ayatollah Sistani. Commander General Qasem Soleimani of the Quds Force stressed the importance of this holy religious Shia cleric in the liberation of Mosul. Soleimani pointedly stressed that his words “brought together a unity in the history of Iraq that is rare.”
Al-Monitor reports, “Soleimani said that Sistani’s fatwa calling on all Iraqis to defend themselves against IS, which eventually led to the formation of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), known as Hashid Shaabi, was instrumental in the battle against IS.”
Of course, the armed forces of Iraq, the role of Iran, the PMU, Kurdish forces, the bombing campaign of America in Mosul, the current government of Iraq, and others, have all combined collectively to defeat ISIS in Mosul. However, it was Grand Ayatollah Sistani who galvanized the dire crisis facing Iraq. This holy religious Shia cleric reinvigorated the counter attack, restored fresh hope, and gave the government of Iraq – and the armed forces of this nation breathing space – during a time of high anxiety and enormous fear based on the mass atrocities committed by ISIS.
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