BAGHDAD (Dispatches) -- Iraqi officials on Saturday condemned the publication of an offensive cartoon of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in a Saudi-owned newspaper, saying the depiction stems from the failure of Riyadh’s Takfiri plots.
Hadi al-Ameri, secretary general of the Badr Organization which leads the Fatah (Conquest) Alliance at the Iraqi parliament, said Riyadh had once again insulted the religious authority in Iraq and crossed red lines by publishing the blasphemous cartoon in London-based daily Asharq al-Awsat newspaper.
The image ignores the feelings of millions of Shia, Sunni and Christian Iraqis who are aware of Ayatollah Sistani’s role in preserving the country’s national sovereignty against the Daesh terrorist group, Al-Sumaria TV network quoted Ameri as saying.
The cartoon shows the Saudi regime’s intention to continue its suspicious schemes and hostilities toward all those seeking to keep Iraq united, he added.
Takfirism, the trademark of many terror outfits, is largely influenced by Wahhabism that is the radical ideology dominating Saudi Arabia and freely preached by its clerics.
Iraqi lawmaker and Fatah spokesman Ahmed al-Asadi said the Saudi daily’s move shows that targeting religious authorities still dominates the kingdom’s mentality.
In a post on his Twitter account, Nasr al-Shammari, spokesman for Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba group, stressed that the anti-Shia stance adopted by Saudi Arabia, the U.S. and the occupying regime of Israel is not strange.
The Saudis are those who have unjustly shed the blood of Muslims, he wrote, adding that the insult proves Riyadh’s bitter feeling about seeing its Takfiri conspiracies defeated by the Iraqi religious authority’s wise and firm measures.
Ali al-Asadi, chairman of Nujaba’s political board, emphasized that the main reason behind the offensive cartoon was Ayatollah Sistani’s fatwa that led to the establishment of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) or Hashd al-Sha’abi.
In June 2014 when Daesh unleashed its campaign of terror and destruction in Iraq, Ayatollah Sistani issued a religious edict and called on his followers to rush to the national army’s help in the fight against the Takfiri outfit.
The fatwa helped bring together Shia fighters, Sunni tribesmen, as well as Christian and Izadi volunteers under the umbrella of the PMU to reverse Daesh’s gains and ultimately end the terror group’s territorial rule in Iraq in late 2017.
Asadi called for the closure of Asharq al-Awsat’s office in Iraq.
Back in May, Saudi-funded TV channel MBC insulted late Hashd al-Sha’abi commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis who was assassinated in a U.S. drone
attack in January along with top Iranian anti-terror icon General Qassem Soleimani.
The insulting cartoon comes even as the new Iraqi government has shown unusual enthusiasm to mend fences with Saudi Arabia despite reservations held by some groups in Baghdad which view Riyadh with distrust.
In May, Saudi Arabia announced during a visit Riyadh by Iraq’s deputy premier Ali al-Allawi that it will be sending back its ambassador to Baghdad.
The Iraqi delegation’s visit to Saudi Arabia was the first foreign trip by any of new Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s cabinet ministers and was closely watched by observers.