Thursday, April 08, 2004

Whatcha say about my imam?

Ok, sorry for the goofy title.

Just a few brief comments. Apparently the narcoleptic is turning into my Iraq war journal. I won't apologize, simply write.

The current insurgency across the south of the country, the continued siege in Falluja, are disheartening certainly. As much as I might like to jump to conclusions and tell you the country is on the brink of a Vietnam-like war of attrition, it is still a bit early to tell. As I have mentioned before, Ayat-allah Sistani provides the barometer. Grand Ayat-allahs are sort of like a cross between a high court judge and a theologian. These guys have patience and they have wisdom, and certainly do not make flippant remarks or actions. Moqtada al-Sadr derives his authority from lineage only, not possessing any of the usual credentials. That was just for clarification.

So as I said, Sistani is the barometer. When he condemns occupation aggression, and not Sadr's actions this is measured. With this, he retains credibility and unity with the most despondent of Shia. The action is similar to Arafat's reaction to Hamas in the past, in which he understood that full fledged allegiance would mean trouble, yet outright condemnation was worse. Sistani may well be the most important man in that country, and even after the handover of power, he will remain the one who decides the immediate future vision of Iraq.

And here is where the handover date is really key. If the level of violence between now and June 30 remains static or decreases, it is likely that Sistani will be able to continue relying upon political pressure rather than force to assert influence. If the level of violence increases, his moderate position may lose steam. The true test comes when Sistani determines the legitimacy of the new power structure. He knows that if he wants the occupation ended, it will end. He is just being patient, like a proper ayat-allah knows how.

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