Friday, May 23, 2008

Grand Ayatullah al-Sistani: Is He Succumbing to Pressure from Iraqi Shi'i Radicals?

Will Sistani Declare Jihad on U.S.?
Juan Cole (May 23, 2008)

Informed Comment (

" [Grand Ayatullah Sayyid 'Ali al-] Sistani...follows American politics, and he knows that the US is transitioning away from Bush, so he may see an opportunity to push the new administration in a different direction. I have all along believed that Sistani would ultimately issue a fatwa saying that it was illegitimate for there to continue to be foreign troops on Iraqi soil. I think he would have gone in that direction if Bush had not given in on the January, 2005, elections. But he had been concerned about a resurgence of the Baath, about the rise of the Salafi Jihadis (radical Sunnis, which are in my view mistakenly called 'al-Qaeda'), and about the weakness of the Shiite government.Ironically, the more success the Americans have in reducing sectarian violence and strengthening the Iraqi state, the more likely it is that Sistani will put his foot down about the foreign military presence.

This likelihood is one reason I find it difficult to take seriously the plans of the Pentagon and the American Right for a long-term US military presence in Iraq. I just don't think the Shiites will put up with it. And, the constant bombardment of the small British contingent down at the Basra airport likely points to the fate of any division of US troops left in the country.

Those tempted to dismiss the possibility that a frail old man in Najaf can get up a social movement powerful enough to thwart US plans should read Michael Schwartz's essay at on the way Iraqi popular movements got in the way of the Project for a New American Century."

[Taken from Prof. Juan Cole's blog, Informed Comment;
Read the entire post here.]

Juan R. I. Cole is a professor of history at the University of Michigan. His award-winning daily blog, Informed Comment, is a must-read for those interested in the modern Middle East. I check it every day.

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