Iran News ...


Power Show of Shiite Leaders in Najaf

By Masoud Behnoud
Translated by Roya Monajem

The return of Ayatollah Sistani to Iraq and announcement of a country-wide demonstration with the purpose of appeasement of the agitated air dominating Najaf, is to make use of a technique that the great Shiite leaders have been long utilizing to mark their stamps on the political trends, despite the fact that the above technique has proved ineffective in the face of resolute foreign forces.

Ayatollah Sistani who was away from Najaf for one month due to his heart problems, now finds more luck for himself as the recent bloody events that took place in Najaf during his absence not only proved that violent military maneuvers are absolutely ineffective in solving the present crisis in Iraq, but will definitely lead to the lessening of Shiite influence throughout the country.

Ayatollah Sistani's invitation was well-received by the Iraqi Shiites who immediately started to go to Najaf in thousands from all over Iraq while only two weeks earlier a similar invitation to support Moqtada Sadr's military resistance against American led forces was ignored.

Exit of Moqtada Sadr' militia from the Imam Ali's Shrine and of the American forces from Najaf are the main message of the present invitation of the prominent Iraqi Shiite leader for a country-wide demonstration. If the goal of this message is accomplished, it will guarantee the continuation of the public influence of the Shiite leaders of Najaf and perhaps peaceful political transformation of Iraq.

Pointing to the significant public attention to Ayatollah Sistani's invitation, political specialists believe that even if the militia led by Moqtada Sadr plan for further violent maneuvers, although they can lose a historical chance to have a voice in the future regime of Iraq, nevertheless it will once more show the influence and subtlety of the traditional Shiite leadership in manipulating the political changes of Iran and Iraq as it has done so during the past two centuries.

Perhaps the first sign of Ayatollah Sistani's success should be searched in the open change of the strategy of Iranian hardliners who although secretly supported Moqtada Sadr and furtively criticized Ayatollah Sistani until recently, but immediately showed a positive reaction to Sistani's maneuver and regarded it as a sign of the right approach.

The two newspapers Keyhan and Islamic Republic - the loudspeakers of Iranian hardliners - which criticized Ayatollah Sistani's trip to London in search of medical treatment and accused Ayatollah's immediate circle of followers of association with the foreigners, supported Ayatollah's invitation for a country-wide demonstration in an epical tone.

What gives Ayatollah Sistani's invitation a greater significance and power is that the demonstration is to take place on Imam Ali's birthday (the coming Monday) when people would come as usual to his Shrine from all over and jubilate. Historians remember how the determining Shiite agitations were caused by the use (abuse) of people's emotions during certain religious days, such as the Arabic month of Moharam and Ashura (the day Imam Hussein was murdered), the second half of the month of Ramadan (when Imam Ali was murdered) and Imam Ali's birthday in the past two hundred years.

The protests that took place in Moharam and Ramadan of 1324HG (1907) that led to issuing of the Constitutional Order in Iran, the Ashura of 1330HG/1914 that led to the public insurgence in Tabriz against Russian Tsarist forces, the serious protest of Iraqi people against the English forces in the Ramadan of 1302/1923, the death of Aseyed Abol-Hassan Esfahani, the Shiite leader in 1324/1945 that took place simultaneously with the movement of the Democrat Party of Azerbaijan demonstrating the power of Shiite leaders compared to that of the communist leaders of the Democrat Party and finally the events of the Arabic month of Moharam of 1342/1963 (Imam Khomeini's first revolutionary protest on Khordad 15th ) in Tehran all took place on important religious days.

The last recorded use of sacred religious days took place during the autumn and winter of 1357/1978 when the rising revolutionary power of the masses led to the fall of monarchy and the establishment of Islamic Republic in Iran.

Ayatollah Sistani - as his master Ayatollah Khoeie, the ex-leaders of the Shiite of the world - has no intention to intervene in politics or attempt to establish an Islamic regime in Iraq and as announced repeatedly by the religious leadership of Najaf, he does not approve of a religious regime modeled after the religious regime of Iran. Even the famous advocate of the establishment of a Velayat Faghih kind of religious regime in Iraq, i.e. Ayatollah Haeri has announced that at present he does not consider the social political conditions ready for the establishment of such a regime in Iraq.

Despite the aversion of Iraqi Shiite religious and jurisprudent leaders to be associated with the Islamic Republic of Iran, but in the opinion of men of politics, the empowering of Shiites in Iraq and the exit of the American led forces from Najaf will be considered as a great success by the Islamic regime of Iran that looks at Iraq as the greatest region of its influence outside Iran's borders.

In its first reaction, the religious regime of Iran arranged for a similar demonstration by mobilization of the military forces of the Pasdaran Army to march from the city of Qasr Shirin to the Iraqi borders and invited the inhabitants of Western Provinces of the country to join this demonstration on Imam Ali's birthday held to support the Shiite movement in Iraq.

At the same time, Ayatollah Sistani's success in pacifying the agitated air of the county creates a peaceful opportunity for USA and Britain - whose military forces are still present in the south of Iraq - to restore peace in Iraq and prepare the ground for the future social economic changes in Iraq, with the chance to hold a free election as the foremost step in this regard

... Payvand News - 9/7/04 ... --

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