Thursday, June 3, Iraqi Shiites’ most influential leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, was quoted as voicing approval of the new Iraqi government. His real feelings about the lineup are quite different as seen in the letter displayed with this article. The cleric is sharply critical of the government’s composition on two grounds: he claims it does not represent all segments of Iraqi society and its members were not freely selected.
But those two complaints are not Sistani’s main grievances, which are:
The preponderance of Baath party member in key posts.
The government is overwhelmingly secular; clerics, both Shiite and Sunni, appear to have been deliberated excluded.
The powerful religious leader demands adjustments in the new government to correct these flaws.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources in Iraq report that Sistani is bothered most of all by the fact that the two key portfolios, defense and interior, have been awarded to former Baath members Hazem Shaalan and Falah Nakib, so placing them in charge of national security and intelligence. Another former Baathist, minister of state Adnan Janabi, is a frontrunner for head of Iraqi secret services.
Sistani’s first gesture of discontent betokens a much stronger undercurrent of Shiite anger that is expected to burst out in forceful expression.