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Old Mar 15th 2010, 04:06 PM
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Michael Michael is offline
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Default Re: Where in the hell...

First of all, it is to be acknowledged that Grand Ayatolloh Sistani is the most influential figure in Iraq. He is the most influential person in Iraq for the same reason, and in the same way, that the Pope is the most influential person in Italy. That is to say, he holds the most respected position of the most respected religous institution in the country. Nothing more, nothing less. And just like the Pope, everyone says they respect him, but when push comes to shove, many people can and do ignore him and his [political] commands on a regular basis.

But the point of my argument is not to attack Sistani, his position or his opinions. Rather, my point is to show that when push comes to shove, Iraq doesn't actually follow Sistani's political commands. One only has to look at Sistani's positions at any given time, and then look at events in Iraq to see the disparity.

In 2003/04, Sistani was the key 'moderate' Iraqi voice calling for calm in the face of the US occupation. Muqtada al-Sadr was the 'radical' Iraqi voice calling for violence and insurrection. The Iraqis decided to have an insurrection.

In 2004, Sistani said that the US plan for 'caucus' based election was completely unacceptable. The 2004 elections went ahead anyway, based on the US 'caucus' plan.

In 2006/07, at the height of the 'insurrection' in Iraq, Sistani formally gave up on the politics of Iraq.

Unable to protect his Shi'ite followers against Sunni attacks, and deeply frustrated by his inability to influence events, Sistani reportedly told his staff, "I will not be a political leader anymore. I am only happy to receive questions about religious matters."

A short while later, Muqtada al-Sadr called for a unilateral and self-imposed cease-fire with no pre-conditions. The insurrection settled down immediately - enough for the Bush Administration to claim credit for their 'surge'.

In 2010, when everyone was worried about election violence, Muqtada al-Sadr publicly called for peaceful elections. The Iraqis had a surprisingly peaceful election despite increasing violence in 2010.

My point here is to show that, despite the fact that everyone respects Sistani and everyone loathes the radical Sadr, it is Sadr that has been setting (defacto) the political drumbeat in Iraq since 2003.

In other words, if Sistani says the war is over and Sadr says the war is just beginning, based on both track records here, I'd be stocking up on the ammo and the flak jackets. Iraqis may respect Sistani, but Sadr clearly is closer to the political pulse of the nation.

Indeed, one has only to look at the relations between Sistani and Sadr themselves to see the distinctions. Sistani is the bigshot with all the power and authority of tradition behind him. But it is he who has 'come to an understanding' not just once, but twice (2004 and again in 2008) with Sadr. Both 'understandings' involved Sistani acknowledging/supporting Sadr's public position.

All I can say is that if Sistani was half as influential as everyone says he is, there would have been no insurrection/civl war in Iraq and there would be no SOFA requiring that the US military pull out. Those are the two most salient facts of post-invasion Iraq. Sadr called those shots.

Btw, the one area where Sadr and Sistani are on the same page is the topic of clerics and politics - both publicly oppose the Iranian-model with direct clerical authority built into the constitution. Both formally favor a secular political regime, based on Islamic principles.

And if one looks to the future, (old man) Sistani's most likely successor is a patron/ally of Sadr.
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