The Anbar military operations took place under tense and sectarian circumstances. The Iraqi people have become divided regionally, ideologically and politically. Many groups raised their voices to criticize Iraq’s Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who remained silent regarding the events unfolding in the country.
While Shiite crowds have been demanding support and a strong stance on the part of Sistani in the recent military campaign, Sunnis harshly criticized him, considering his role to be insignificant in the equation given his silence and failure to react swiftly.
Resigned Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi made a scathing comment on Sistani's position on his official Facebook page. He said that Sistani’s rhetoric has no connection whatsoever with reality and has been lost amidst the sounds of bullets and the roar of cannons. Hashemi demanded that he issue a fatwa allowing soldiers in the Iraqi army to abandon their missions. Hashemi also criticized the American position, considering the United States to be biased towards and colluding with Iran against Iraq's Sunnis.
Many international newspapers around the world raised the question about Sistani's silence on the events unfolding in Iraq. The Christian Science Monitor published an article titled "Who can end Iraq's Sunni-Shiite violence?" The article described him as an "advocate for democracy" in Iraq, demanding him to take up a leading role to end the country's current crisis. It was widely re-published in newspapers and news websites.
However, these scenarios and perceptions about Sistani's position fail to consider the circumstances of the situation in Iraq and the political vision of the Shiite authority in Najaf. Any analysis that does not take these two factors into account must be deemed unviable.