Al-Hakim has close ties to prominent Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani, who has criticised the US-led invasion and occupation. On 26 November Al-Hakim announced that senior Shias – including Ayatollah Ali Sistani, in Iraq foresaw ‘real problems’ with the US plan for a transfer of power to Iraqis, scheduled for June 2004.