For Iraq's Shiites, Faith Knows No Borders

(New York Times)Youssef M. Ibrahim - While Iraqi Shiite religous leader Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has approved of the Shiite-led transition government set to take over in Baghdad next week, and the militias loyal to the rebel cleric Moktada al-Sadr have peacefully abandoned their occupation of the holy cities of Karbala and Najaf, it would be a mistake to consider the Shiites a problem solved. Shiism is a phenomenon that transcends borders and domestic politics. Iran, with its 65 million Shiites, its powerful army and its ancient civilization, is the de facto master of the Persian Gulf. Tehran is clearly pleased that Iraq's 15 million Shiites will more or less control their country eventually. In Iraq, Sadr's father was the most revered Shiite figure during the Baathist regime and was assassinated by Saddam's goons in 1999. America should not get in the way if Sadr manages to carve a role for himself in a democratic Iraq. Any hopes for a secular Iraq should also be abandoned - the Shiites will dominate by force of numbers.

2004-06-23 00:00:00

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