Friday, August 6

Sometimes you say OH SHIT!!

I was over at back to iraq, and had an Oh Shit moment. What caused it? A report that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani was very sick, possibly close to death. I am by no means an Iraq expert, but I knew enough before the war started to realize the abject stupidity demonstrated by any comparison to Germany and Japan post WWII. I was operating under a foolish premise that it is much easier to build a democracy in a homogenous environment, free from sectarian or religious conflict. Call me stupidiot, but I have a hankering for history and I was pretty sure the neocons had it terribly wrong. Back to Sistani and Oh Shit!! The Ayatollah was a stabilizing force in the south a man respected by almost everyone, I am firmly convinced that resistance would have been far worse if he had not been around. If he shuffles off the mortal coil things could get ugly in a hurry.

While the Shi’a south seems to be on the verge of conflagration, Baghdad and elsewhere is rife with rumors that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is dying of a heart problem. He has been flown to Beirut and will continue on to London for treatment. From his office in Los Angeles:

Due to many calls, inquiring about the health of our grand scholar, Ayatollah Seyyid Seestani [sic], please be informed that he is sick with a heart problem and is under the supervision of several medical specialists. We hope that they send us a report about his well being as soon as possible.

As we thank all of those who are asking about his health, we urge all the Mo’mens to raise their hands in supplication to the Almighty Allah swt to bestow upon him health and shade him with total protection as soon as possible.

It should also be known that the Ummah of Islam, particularly the Shi’a, are in dire need for his presence in this sensitive era, the time that requires brave stands and honorable decrees.

Peace and blessings be upon you all.

Predictably, a representative for Sistani in Baghdad, Sheikh Jalaladin al-Sagheer, claimed to know nothing about anything, but would get back to me.

Despite al-Sagheer’s studied cluelessness, Sistani’s flight out of the country indicates his health condition is indeed very serious, because he hasn’t left his home in Najaf in years. His reclusiveness is, in part, a source of his authority, lending him an oracular air.

The man is a highly respected cleric in a position that can only be gained through earned respect, rather than a boatload of cash from daddy and his palls. Juan Cole chimes in:
If Sistani dies it might affect the political development of Iraq. It is not clear that the other three grand ayatollahs have Sistani's high opinion of parliamentary democracy rooted in popular sovereignty. He would probably be succeeded by Muhammad Said al-Hakim, an Iraqi and distant cousin of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). SCIRI certainly does not have a long-term commitment to democracy, though Muhammad Said al-Hakim has never identified with that party himself. The other two possible successors are Bashir Najafi, a Pakistani, and Muhammad Fayad, an Afghan. Bashir Najafi is more vehemently anti-American than Sistani. Another contender is Sayyid Kadhim al-Haeri, sometimes called the "fifth grand ayatollah", who is still in exile in Qom. He is a follower of Iran's Khomeini and a radical reactionary on social issues. He had been Muqtada al-Sadr's mentor but has broken with him.
Without Sistani around the likelihood for a pro - US government, let alone a democratic state diminishes substantialy, if indeed it was ever a possibility. If fighting erupts over a power vacuum that arises should Sistani die, life get's much more complicated for everyone involved. We are not yet through the looking glass folks, take a long look at the architects of this folly.

George if you get a fancy invitation to a party being thrown by Queen Beatrix, please accept.