The Shi’a political elite in both Iraq and Iran realize they need to manage the intensity of Iraq’s sectarian conflict very carefully. Both understand they will eventually need Sunni support if they want a political solution to the ongoing crisis and Tehran is trying to ease tensions with Saudi Arabia. Whether they will be able to keep things on the ground from getting out of control is an open question:
In Iraq: “The militiamen appear to be the ones enforcing the demographic change, unsettling the Shiite-led government. The danger is real enough that Shiite Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has spoken forcefully about the need for national unity. Addressing graduating army cadets Tuesday, he called for residents of liberated areas to be allowed to return to their homes, so that their suffering ends. In an unusually bold gesture of reconciliation, he visited the capital’s two landmark Sunni and Shiite shrines on Friday.
Iraq’s top Shiite cleric, the Iranian-born Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, condemned the excesses of militiamen in a fatwa, or an edict, issued last weekend, specifically citing the theft of property in areas liberated from the Islamic State group.”
In Iran: “Ayatollah Khamenei said that the “enemies of Islam” will attempt to “make small all of the common points between Sunni and Shiite brothers” while exaggerating the differences.
In the context of the increased sectarianism that has gripped the Middle East since 2011, the statements and actions of Iranian officials during Unity Week have a great sense of urgency.”