Iraqi Shiism Could Topple Iran's Mullahs

(International Herald Tribune) Cameron Khosrowshahi - * The Shiite centers of learning, located in the shrine cities of Iraq, became one of the critical factors in the downfall of the Shah in Iran's Islamic revolution in 1979. Back then, Iraq contained the seeds of upheaval in neighboring Iran. Today, it does so once again. * Rather than worrying about Iran's influence over Iraq, we should be harnessing the strength of Iraq's newly empowered Shiites against the regime in Iran. * Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the spiritual leader of Iraq's Shiites, is cut from a different cloth from the ruling clerics in Tehran. He is of the quietist tradition, which holds that mosque and state should be kept separate. Sistani's religious credentials and learning dwarf those of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, his counterpart in Iran. There are many Iranians who would rather listen to the Iranian-born Sistani if he chooses to speak to them. * As Iraq's democracy and civil society stabilize, more and more Iranians will travel to Najaf and Karbala as pilgrims and seminary students. The Iranian state will never be able to curtail their people's right to perform the pilgrimage to Iraq, which is a religious duty. The ideas these pilgrims take back with them to Iran could be the beginnings of an authentic counterrevolution against the tyranny of the mosque. * The Pahlavi regime in Iran was ultimately undone from within, by the same modernizing forces that were unleashed by the Shah's White Revolution. Twenty-five years later, a startling parallel exists. The mullahs of Iran could similarly be overthrown by their own religious networks. * This will be seen by the Iranian people not as an artificial solution enforced upon them from outside but as an authentic evolution of their nation toward greater freedom.

2005-03-24 00:00:00

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