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Sistani Bows Out

By Matthew Yglesias

"Sistani Bows Out"

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There have been a lot of ins-and-outs to the Iraq debate and a lot of silly things said. The silliest period, though, by my money was the “Arab Spring” craze in early 2005 after the elections in Iraq. It was quite clear by that point that, elections or no, the situation in Iraq was actually really, really bad. Nevertheless, people got it into their heads that this was actually a giant victory and that, in particular, Grand Ayatollah Sistani was going to turn into a silver bullet, capable of not only saving Iraq but somehow bringing about regime change in Teheran as well. You guys all remember that, right? Well, now comes this:

The most influential moderate Shia leader in Iraq has abandoned attempts to restrain his followers, admitting that there is nothing he can do to prevent the country sliding towards civil war.

Aides say Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is angry and disappointed that Shias are ignoring his calls for calm and are switching their allegiance in their thousands to more militant groups which promise protection from Sunni violence and revenge for attacks.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani “I will not be a political leader any more,” he told aides. “I am only happy to receive questions about religious matters.”

This via Jonah Goldberg who remarks that it “will take some time to digest, but . . . sure doesn’t sound good.” I guess my ex ante outlook was sufficiently bleak that hearing this doesn’t make things look notably bleaker.

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