Tehran and Baghdad, Aug 18 Irans Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) and the Islamic Propaganda Agency have been waging an extensive campaign in recent days to undermine the position of senior Iraqi Shiite clerics who have been reluctant to tow Tehrans line in Iraq, targeting in particular Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani.
The Iranian intelligence and propaganda agencies have instructed their indigenous agents in Iraq, particularly those in the south, to spread the word among Shiite Iraqis that Sistani and several other senior Shiite religious leaders left Najaf just before the outbreak of the recent fighting in the city, as part of a plan to give the Americans a free hand in waging an all-out attack on Najaf and end Moktada Sadrs hold on the holy shrine of Imam Ali.
Iraqi Shiites are being told that Sistanis trip to London was not caused by concerns over his frail health, but was a plan orchestrated by the Americans and Sistanis aides, according to sources in Najaf, Karbala and Basra.
In Iran, top government figures and newspapers have been voicing strong criticism of the silence of senior Shiite religious leaders over the U.S.-led attacks on Moktada Al-Sadrs forces in Najaf. The daily, Jomhouri-Islami, which usually reflects the views of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, criticized the leading religious figures in Iraqs Shiite community for not declaring a jihad against the U.S.-led forces in Iraq. In its editorial on Saturday, August 14, Jomhouri wrote: Despite the carnage of the devout Shiites who are sacrificing their lives to defend the holy shrines of the members of the House of the Prophet, the highest figures have refused to declare a jihad. They should at least declare to the people of Iraq that defending the holy shrine and repelling the American aggression against Najaf is a necessary duty of Moslems.
In last weeks Friday prayers sermon in Tehran, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, the powerful chairman of the Guardian Council, expressed dismay and surprise at the silence of prominent religious leaders in Iraq over what he called
The Iranian leaders want to undermine Sistanis authority and widespread following among Iraqi Shiites in a bid to radicalize Shiite opinion in Iraq and bring the Iraqi Shiite mainstream closer to the views of pro-Tehran Shiite groups in the country. Iranian leaders have also been angered by comments being attributed to Sistani concerning Tehrans meddling in Iraq. The Iraqi daily, Al-Ittijah al-Akher, reported on August 14 that Sistani warned a senior Iranian emissary to stop their meddlings in Iraq.
The paper wrote: In a recent meeting with Grand Ayatollah Sistani, Khameneis representative who is in charge of the Revolutionary Guards' Qods Garrison and the Information office of Palestine, the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Iraqi affairs office named Nasr asked Sistani if there was anything he could provide for him. Sistani told him: Tell the Iranian authorities and officials that the only thing that we need is for them to stop meddling in Iraqi affairs and leave the Iraqi people alone. We will be happy then! The Iranian authorities had suggested taking Sistani to Iran for treatment but he did not accept.