Putin speaks to Iraq’s Maliki, offers Russia’s support against Sunni militants

putin malikiRussian President Vladimir Putin has spoken by phone to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, expressing Moscow’s support for his action against the militant offensive.

The Kremlin said in a statement that al-Maliki informed Putin on Friday about his government’s steps to combat the “terrorist groups in the north of the country.” It added that the insurgency threatens security of the entire region.

Putin confirmed Russia’s “full support for the Iraqi government’s action to quickly free the territory of the republic from terrorists,” the Kremlin said, adding that Putin and al-Maliki also discussed bilateral cooperation.

Putin’s expression of support for the embattled Iraqi prime minister comes as al-Maliki’s rivals have mounted a campaign to force him out of office, with some angling for support from Western backers and regional heavyweights.

Maliki  ushered  out

Putin’s offer of support  is puzzling because it   comes after the spiritual leader of Iraq’s Shiite majority  hinted that Maliki should go  when he called for  for a new, “effective” government.
“It is necessary for the winning political blocs to start a dialogue that yields an effective government that enjoys broad national support, avoids past mistakes and opens new horizons toward a better future for all Iraqis,” Ayatollah  al-Sistani said in a message delivered by his representative Ahmed al-Safi in the holy city of Karbala.
The Iranian-born recluse, who lives in the holy city of Najaf south of Baghdad, is deeply revered by Iraq’s Shiites.

The cleric’s thinly veiled comments suggested that the prime minister was to blame for the nation’s crisis as Sunni militants have joined forces with the al-Qaeda-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS).

Al-Sistani’s Friday sermon also called for the newly elected parliament to begin work and start the process of forming the next government without delay, Reuters reports. Maliki’s party won the most seats in last month’s election, but his coalition fell short of a majority.

Washington Post/ USA Today