Policies

All correspondence is confidential unless permission is granted. All posts are open to comment for seven days; after that, they are moderated. Please email if you are unable to leave a comment, it will be posted for you.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Sistani Redux

Read this: August 2007

Then read this (from Pajamas Media, quote below from Threatswatch):

This is a huge development. One of the biggest questions I and others have had since the Iranian protests/revolt/revolution began was whether Mousavi would be any different in tangible effect (Hizballah & Hamas support, etc.) than Ahmadinejad and whether Rafsanjani was seeking to sack ‘Supreme’ Leader Khamenei simply to acquire the powerful position for himself. That question perhaps may have been answered today. My ears first perked up when word made it through the grapevines over the weekend that Rafsanjani had been meeting with other Ayatollahs and clerics in Qom, and had among them a representative of Iraq’s Ayatollah Ali Sistani. Why? Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in 2007 made two very critical statements: that “I am a servant of all Iraqis, there is no difference between a Sunni, a Shiite or a Kurd or a Christian,” and that Islam can exist within a democracy without theological conflict. You will never hear such words slip past the lips of Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei. Ever. Sistani’s presence at the Rafsanjani talks in Qom, Iran, through a representative brings therefore added significance. And the al-Arabiya report above seems to suggest that Rafsanjani is not seeking Sistani’s support for superficial reasons. In November 2007 at National Review Online, I wrote about this aspect of Ayatollah Ali Sistani, including a reference to another analysis I had written earlier in the spring.
[...]

Sistani’s appeal does not end at the Iraqi border, as Iranians increasingly observe his leadership with interest and fondness. Some are “intrigued by the more freewheeling experiment in Shi’ite empowerment taking place across the border in Iraq,” which is fundamentally different in approach than the Iranian theocratic brand of dictated observance and obedience. The Boston Globe’s Anne Barnard reports that within Tehran’s own central bazaar, “an increasing number of merchants are sending their religious donations, a 20 percent tithe expected from all who can spare it, to Iraq’s most senior Shi’ite cleric.”

If that didn’t quite sink in, go read that paragraph again. many Iranian merchants have been sending their 20% tithes to Sistani, not Khamenei. Since at least 2007. I spoke to the significance of Rafsanjani seeking Sistani’s support earlier on ‘The Steve Schippert Show’ on RFC Radio just before the al-Arabiya story broke. His name is an attention-getter for those aware of players and forces in both Iran and Iraq. And for good reason. Perhaps in Iran, just as in Iraq today, true democracy can exist “without theological conflict” with the Shi’a faith. And perhaps the most unlikely cast of available men in Iran are set to bring that to be. Perhaps only something close, or closer. But whatever the change, and the extent of the change - and it appears the intent is significant change and not simply a game of Shuffling Ayatollahs - it will be positive for Iranians, for the region, for Americans and for the entire world. I think it is nearly inevitable at his point, and time is not on the regime’s side.

This is huge if Sistani is truly playing a part in whatever is going on in clerical circles in Qom. Sistani is the most senior cleric in Shi'ite Islam and any move by the Iranian clerics toward him and the tradition he represents would be as the quote says truly beneficial for Iran and the Middle East.

2 comments:

Louis E. said...

A clearly defined hierarchy and primacy is something Islam has long lacked...and Khamenei was bumped up to Ayatollah and then Grand Ayatollah with unseemly speed to qualify him as Faghi (Supreme Leader).Sistani came up with more credibility even if the more senior Ayatollahs in Iraq were occasionally assassinated.

Samuel said...

One thing this news item doesn't reveal, something I've been wondering about since this episode began, is what the reaction of Shi'ites in Iraq? Iran is Iran. But Iraq is the home to Karbala and Najaf, a couple of Shia's most holy sites.

Do they even care or is the Arab-Persian divide too wide?