May 15, 2007

"But influence is a two-way street..."

One of the reasons I placed on my list of reasons to invade Iraq was...Iran. Right now we are focused on how the Iranian regime is fomenting violence in Iraq. But we hardly stop to wonder what Iraq is fomenting in Iran. And exactly why Iran might wish to make trouble for a majority Shi'ite state. I found this article very interesting..

.....Traditionally, Shiites have believed that clerics should stay out of politics until the return of the Mahdi, the last of the revered early Shiite imams, who disappeared in the ninth century. Shiites believe he went into hiding and will someday reveal himself.

Only he can establish a perfect Islamic state, according to traditional believers -- including some in the Tehran bazaar, whose influential religious merchant class backed the revolution but has since grown more skeptical of the ruling clerics.

"Only the Mahdi is the genuine leader," said Ghaie's brother Mohammad, 45, whose family, like many Iranian merchants, has lived in both Iran and Iraq over generations.

Expressing such opinions is dangerous: Several prominent religious scholars -- chief among them Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri -- are under house arrest or other official sanctions for opposing clerical rule or proposing limits on it.

The quietist philosophy suited disempowered Shiites, who through most of their history lived under Sunni powers. Shiites are a minority among Muslims and within all modern Middle Eastern states except Iran, Iraq, and Bahrain.

But now, in Iraq, Shiites are witnessing a new alternative: They can defend their rights at the ballot box, without establishing a religious state.

"We believe that politics is separate from religion," said Iraq's ambassador to Iran, Mohammed Majid al-Sheikh. "Of course there are debates about this. If Iran wants to take on these debates, it will benefit. And I could say that the experiment of Iraq will ripple throughout the Middle East."

Iran has worked hard to influence Iraq. US officials have accused it of fomenting violence there. Analysts say Iran welcomes low-grade chaos in Iraq in part to prevent the emergence of a democratic Shiite alternative that could embolden Iranian reformists, while at the same time courting Shiite Iraqis by presenting itself as a stable and benign neighbor.

But influence is a two-way street, especially between two countries whose shrine cities and capitals have been tied by trade and pilgrimage for centuries. About 1,500 Iranians go to Iraq on pilgrimage every day, Sheikh said. The Ghaie brothers went recently and were impressed to see the parade of Iraqi politicians visiting Sistani's modest house in Najaf -- voluntarily -- for advice.

Last month, the Iranian press reported, Jalaluddin Taheri, a dissident cleric who resigned as Isfahan's Friday prayer leader in 2002 after criticizing the regime as corrupt and autocratic, went to Najaf to pay respects to Sistani.

The representative of Iraq's most pro-Iran political party, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, touted Iraq's freer system.

Majid Ghamas contended in an interview in his Tehran office that Iranians, because of their country's somewhat competitive elections, have more freedom than Saudis, Jordanians, or Egyptians.

"But not as much as in Iraq," he said, "now that we have a government that respects Islam and the rituals of Islam but does not impose Islam by force so that it becomes a rigid Islam."

But persuading the Iranian masses that their country should emulate Iraq would be an uphill battle.

"If there were security there, these changes [in Iraq] could be appreciated" by Iranians, he said. "But without security you cannot appreciate anything else."

The evil alliance of Democrats and despots and terrorists has, for the moment, derailed our efforts to spread democracy in the Middle East and other Islamic trouble spots. (The tyrants and terrorists at least have the excuse of not knowing any better.) BUT, ideas spread. No one can really hide the fact that Iraqis are voting for their leaders. And that Sistani is not setting himself up as a power.

Al Queda has succeeded in giving the Dems a congressional majority, and so Condi is no longer jetting about and leaning on the Mubarraks and Assads. But there is more to globalization than just McDonald's and KFC.

Posted by John Weidner at May 15, 2007 8:10 AM
Weblog by John Weidner