Sistani and the protests that turned violent
Mohammed at Iraq the Model has interesting analysis. I have taken just an excerpt, and recommend reading it all:
Ayatollah Sistani issued a fatwa on Wednesday that sounded peaceful and normal from the first look but if you look closer at each word you will find that the "safety valve" became the igniter this time.
Two years ago the shrine of Imam Ali in Najaf was attacked and although this is the holiest shrine for Shia Muslims the incident wasn't met with that much angry reactions instead we heard soothing statements like "these are mere stones and we can rebuild them and make them even better than before".
This time things were different because the political situation is different; the Ayatollah called for nationwide protests (and not to attack Sunni mosques) and a week of mourning. Now let's examine the part that said "do not attack Sunni mosques"…the sentence openly accuses the Sunni of being behind the attack or why would their mosques be mentioned in the first place?
In the government statements the term "Takfiri terrorists/Saddami Ba'athists" is the one commonly used but in the Ayatollah's fatwa this was replaced by "Sunni".
This fatwa which is sugar-coated with tolerance and restraint is actually pointing at the perpetrator that we-should-not-punish-because-we-are-merciful.
So…the protests were not spontaneous like clerics want us to think; in fact the only spontaneous protest was the one in Samarra itself!
I live here and I've seen the whole thing. The demonstrations in Baghdad began after the fatwa and I saw how shop keepers unwillingly closed their shops when the men in black with their arms and loudspeakers ordered them to do so "in the name of the Hawza" and I saw the sad look on the faces of people abandoning their only source of income for a time that could go indefinitely.