Iraq cleric warns foreign actors against interfering in protests

Iraq’s top cleric warned foreign actors on Friday against interfering in his country’s anti-government protests as they entered a second month despite pledges of reform and violence that has left over 250 dead. The demonstrations have evolved since October 1 from rage over corruption and unemployment to demands for a total government overhaul— shunning both politicians and religious figures along the way. They have even condemned the influence of the Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary factions, who have descended into the streets of the capital and elsewhere to flex their muscles. In his weekly sermon, top Shia religious authority Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani said Iraq must not be dragged “into the “abyss of infighting”. “No person or group, no side with a particular view, no regional or international actor may seize the will of the Iraqi people and impose its will on them,” he said. On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged the Iraqi government to “listen to the legitimate demands made by the Iraqi people,” saying an official probe undertaken last month into suppression of the protests “lacked sufficient credibility”.

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