In a move that almost certainly will have a major impact on Iraq’s future, the nation’s top religious leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani has publicly endorsed the protesters and is demanding that the ruling elite give in to real reforms.
Sistani rarely interjects in Iraqi politics, which tends to make his rare comments highly influential. After weeks of criticizing violence against the protesters, he is now accusing the government of being “delusional” and thinking they can stall to avoid real reform.
Sistani went on to declare that what comes after the protests “will not be the same as before,” and that the government should recognize that fact. He also praised the protesters for the honorable way they’d sought reform.
Protesters in several major Shi’ite cities in Iraq celebrated after news of the sermon, saying that the Shi’ite religious leadership is with them. Security forces are still firing tear gas and live ammunition at the protesters, however, trying to force them from the streets.
The big elephant in the room right now is Iran, as they have endorsed the continued rule of the existing government, and sent military officials to Iraq to talk to Sistani and other clerics. Sistani has denied making any deals, and many protesters are criticizing Iran for meddling.