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Khamenei Adviser: 'Zeal, Devotion' Of The Shi'a Saved Iraq

Iraq's top Shi'ite cleric, Ayatollah Ali Sistani

Iraq's top Shi'ite cleric, Ayatollah Ali Sistani

The head of the office of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Hojjatoleslam Mohammad Mohammadi Golpeygani, has said that Iraq would have fallen into the hands of Islamic State had it not been for a fatwa issued by Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraq's highest-ranking Shi'ite cleric, calling on Shi'as to fight.

In June, Sistani issued the fatwa, which was aimed at mobilizing Iraqi Shi'as against the Sunni-led Islamic State, amid fears that Islamic State jihadis would destroy Shi'ite shrines in Iraq.

Golpeygani said that the fatwa, together with the “zeal and devotion” of Shi'as, had prevented Iraq from falling to Islamic State militants.

Golpeygani slammed Islamic State’s extremism and said that the group were "Kharijites" -- a term used to refer to a sect of Muslims who rejected the succession of the Caliph Ali ibn Abi Talib. In particular, the Kharijites were reputed to declare other Muslims to be unbelievers and to therefore deserve the death penalty.

Sunni opponents of Islamic State, notably some Jabhat al-Nusra members, have accused the group of being Kharijites.

In September, Islamic satellite channels, including some in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, aired an awareness campaign titled "ISIS: The Ignorance of the Kharijites and Penetrating the Intelligence," which warned of “extremist ideology and Kharijite beliefs in particular."

-- Joanna Paraszczuk

About This Blog

"Under The Black Flag" provides news, opinion, and analysis about the impact of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Syria, Iraq, and beyond. It focuses not only on the fight against terrorist groups in the Middle East, but also on the implications for the region and the world. The blog's primary author, James Miller, closely covered the first three years of the Arab Spring, with a focus on Syria, and is now the managing editor of The Interpreter, where he covers Russia's foreign and domestic policy and the Kremlin's wars in Syria and Ukraine. Follow him on Twitter: @Millermena