Ayatollah Sistani: Iraq gov’t should not tolerate infringement of sovereignty

Tehran, Dec 11, IRNA – Iraq’s top Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, called on the government on Friday to show ‘no tolerance’ of any infringement of the country’s sovereignty, after Turkey deployed heavily armed troops to northern Iraq.

Ayatollah Sistani’s Spokesman, Sheikh Abdul Mehdi Karbala’i, did not explicitly name Turkey, but a row over the deployment has badly soured relations between Ankara and Baghdad, which denies having agreed to it, Reuters reported.

Ayatollah Sistani also said Iraq’s neighbors should not send any troops to Iraq ‘under the pretext of fighting terrorism’, except with the approval of the Baghdad government.

‘The Iraqi government is responsible for protecting Iraq’s sovereignty and must not tolerate and side that infringes upon it, whatever the justifications and necessities,’ Karbalai’i said in a weekly sermon.

Ankara says the troops were sent as part of an international mission to train and equip Iraqi forces to fight Islamic State. Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday a withdrawal was ‘out of the question for the moment’.