Monday, January 26, 2004

Well, looky here. According to the New York Times,

An austere home in a dusty alleyway here has become a center of power rivaling the American occupation headquarters in Baghdad -- and the scene of fierce inner struggles for one man's ear.

They are referring to the austere home of the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. And they're a bit late covering the story -- people who have been reading Juan Cole's blog have known of the Ayatollah Sistani, the most prominent "Object of Emulation" for Iraq's Shiites, as a critical figure in the governance of Iraq for months. But because he has wanted to deal with the CPA by quiet negotiation and, where possible, accomodation (at least until the recent mass demonstrations which appeared and then vanished at his word), there has (up till those demonstrations) been no concrete demonstration that he has actual power -- and so the American press, in ignoring him, seems to have been simply pretending that he doesn't. And, to some extent, they still are -- this story in today's paper seems to imply that Sistani's demands for elections (which he's been making for months) only became an issue when he gained adherents on the IGC. One hopes that the CPA itself hasn't been making the same mistake.

But it seems, at long last, as if the CPA, or at least some factions within it, want to be a little flexible. Indeed, in discussions with the UN, US representatives have said only one thing is nonnegotiable -- we must be out by June 30th. And so Dubya's crew continues to show the same rock-ribbed devotion to principle and judicious sense of priorities which have marked all their dealings in Iraq, and in fact their conduct of the whole "war on terror"...


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