Iraq's most respected Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, warned about the Israeli plot to break up Iraq on Friday.
Ayatollah Sistani’s representative, Sheikh Abdul-Mahdi al-Karbalaie, told worshippers in a Friday sermon at the holy city of Karbala that “all (Iraqis) must be cautious about the secessionist plans devised for Iraq by Israel and its leaders who are vocally speaking about it.”
“The enemies of Iraq should be denied the opportunity to realize their objectives,” Karbalaie said.
Ayatollah Sistani has also called on political blocs to agree on the next prime minister before the newly elected parliament sits next week, stepping up pressure on political leaders to set aside their differences and form an inclusive government in the face of militants who have seized large swaths of territory.
Sistani’s representative also said that the Grand Ayatollah wanted the political blocs to agree on the next parliament speaker and president by the time the new legislature meets Tuesday.
He said that selecting the three before parliament meets would be a "prelude to the political solution that everyone seeks at the present."
Sistani is the most revered figure among Iraq's Shias. A call up to arms he issued on June 13 prompted tens of thousands of Shias to volunteer to join the security forces in the fight against the extremists.
Iraqi helicopters fire on Tikrit
Iraqi helicopters launched an airstrike on hideouts of terrorists in Tikrit on Friday to dislodge insurgents who overran the city in an onslaught that has given them control of most majority Sunni regions and brought them close to Baghdad.
Tikrit, the hometown of former dictator Saddam Hussein, fell a fortnight ago to Sunnis led by fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which split from al- Qaeda.
A rights group said analysis of photographs and satellite imagery "strongly indicate" that ISIL staged mass executions in Tikrit after seizing it on June 11 early in their offensive.
ISIL killed as many as 190 men in at least two locations over three days, Human Rights Watch said. Numbers may be much higher but the difficulty of locating bodies and getting to the area had prevented a full investigation, it added.
Iraqi forces launched an airborne assault on Tikrit on Thursday, flying commandos into a stadium in helicopters, at least one of which crashed after coming under fire from insurgents.
ISIL on Saudi Arabia’s doorstep
Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has ordered all necessary measures to protect Saudi Arabia against potential “terrorist threats” after chairing a security meeting to discuss the fall-out from Iraq.
The world’s top oil exporter shares an 800 km border with Iraq, where ISIL terrorists have seized towns and cities in an advance this month.
“Concerned for the national security of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia against any measures that terrorist organizations or any other groups might resort to ... [the king] has ordered all necessary measures to protect the gains of the homeland and its stability, and the security of the Saudi people,” SPA said.
Jets from Russia to help in war against ISIL
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Nouri Maliki said that jets from Russia and Belarus will hopefully make a key difference in the war against ISIL in Iraq.
He expressed regrets over Iraq's contract with the US, saying their jets are taking too long to arrive.
"God willing within one week this force will be effective and will destroy the terrorists' dens," he told BBC Arabic.
Maliki criticized the process of purchasing US jets as “long-winded,” adding that the radicals could have been repelled if Iraq had proper air defense.
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