Iraq’s top Shi’ite cleric says graft in army helped Islamic State

November 10, 2014
(UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (R) meets with Iraq's top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf, in this July 24, 2014 picture provided by the United Nations. Ban sought guidance from Iraq's top cleric on Thursday, as he urged Iraqi politicians to form an inclusive government that can confront a Sunni militant insurgency. Ban's meeting with Sistani underscored the 83-year-old cleric's vast sway in Iraq, where Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is considered a polarising figure who has fueled sectarian tensions. REUTERS/Eskinder Debebe/United Nations/Handout via Reuters)

(Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf,  July 24, 2014.  REUTERS/Eskinder Debebe/United Nations/Handout via Reuters)

Iraq’s most influential Shi’ite cleric said on Friday corruption in the armed forces had enabled Islamic State to seize much of northern Iraq, criticism that will add to pressure for reforms in the face of an insurgency.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has become increasingly critical of Iraqi leaders following Islamic State’s lightning advance created Iraq’s worst crisis since a U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Iraq’s army, recipient of $25 billion in U.S. training and funding, collapsed in the face of the onslaught. Further Islamic State gains and the beheading of Western hostages triggered U.S.-led air strikes.

Speaking on live television through an aide in the holy southern city of Kerbala, Sistani asked rhetorically what would happen if the military were corrupt.

“We think that the security deterioration that happened some months ago can answer that,” Sistani said. “Objectivity demands that the different military positions should be occupied by those who are professional, patriotic, faithful, courageous and not affected in doing their duties by personal and financial influences.”

Read the full story by Raheem Salman here.

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