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Current Prime Minsiter of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki is facing increasing pressure to not seek a third term in office. Following the continued violence in the country, top Shiite spiritual authority, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has sent a letter to Maliki’s office, stating his opposition to a third Maliki term, the Wall Street Journal reports.

There have been meetings with the Iranian regime's military officials in Iraq, signally their continued influence in the country. The regime representatives are reported to have said that they have started to “lean away from Maliki as a candidate." Also during these meetings, the Iranian regoe were reportedly told that Maliki has lost the confidence of nearly everyone except those in his inner-circle.

The delegation was headed by Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, along with intelligence, security, foreign affairs, and Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) representatives.

The letter from Sistani signals that even within Iraq, Maliki is losing support and is seen as being too decisive, even within his own Shiite support base, to lead Iraq.

On how these two events are related, Hoshyar Zebar, until recently Iraq’s foreign minister, is reported to have said that Iran "will align with what Sistani would like to see,” giving further evidence that Iran is likely to be looking for somebody else to rule Iraq. Zebar concedes that Iran has not explicitly said that it no longer backs Maliki, but that "they would not oppose Sistani's judgment or preferences."

Western and Arab sources have said that the Iranian leadership is indeed divided on the issue of Maliki. What the Iranian regime will seek is a candidate with whom it is on good terms and can continue to spread its influence, the Wall Street Journal report said.

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