Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Beginning of the End?

According to Juan Cole, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani just got a lot frostier toward US presence in Iraq, possibly as a result of competition from more implacable clerical foes of American presence.
Fars News reproduces in Persian on May 24, 2008, another anti-American fatwa by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani of Najaf. It says that its correspondent in Najaf reports that an Iraqi Shiite submitted the following to Sistani:

'I sell foodstuffs. Sometimes the Occupying Powers or their associates come to my establishment. May I sell them foodstuffs?'

Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani replied:

' Selling foodstuffs to the Occupying Powers is not permitted.'

Last I knew, the US military in Iraq does not buy its food from Iraqis but rather imports it, for fear that Iraqi nationalists might poison it. But I'm told US soldiers do buy food and snacks from Shiite shops in Baghdad when out on patrol. So the fatwa would affect the latter but not the former. But if Sistani is laying the grounds for a Gandhi-style non-cooperation movement, he certainly could put a crimp in the American military's style in Iraq. I can't imagine US troops could function in the Shiite south or much of Baghdad without Shiite cooperation. Sistani still has a great deal of moral authority, and would be backed by less cautious clerics such as Muqtada al-Sadr and Ayatollah Jawad al-Khalisi.

This fatwa is significant in light of the reports that Sistani has been orally permitting attacks on US troops by Shiite militiamen loyal to the Shiite religious authorities in Najaf.

If this is true, it makes the US presence in Iraq all but untenable. Sistani certainly sounds like he means business.
This could be either good news or bad news. If you are a conservative who believes the claptrap about al-Qaeda taking over or at least "being emboldened" by a US pullout, this sound like bad news. However, you are delusional.
On the other hand, if you believe it's high time we leave Iraq, this seems good news. Given the nature of this, we probably won't be seeing helicopter airlifting the last US personnel out of the embassy. I have my doubts about all of the candidates willingness to withdraw from the country, this move will effectively force one of their hands. Even better would be if it forces Bush's hand, because that would help curtail a "stab-in-the-back" myth like the right has about Vietnam. This may be to much to hope for, though.
(Posted by Ewan)

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