Over Christmas vacation, I went to the Shiite holy city of Najaf, in Iraq, where I had the honor of having audiences with three of the Grand Ayatollahs who reside in that city. I’ll write more about that in the coming months.
Not only in Najaf, but throughout Iraq, there was an outraged buzz about rumors that former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had met with — and bribed — Grand Ayatollah Sistani. These reports — which originated on Iranian-backed Arabic news sites — are flatly untrue and are meant to discredit Grand Ayatollah Sistani. The Iranians know that it is the independent Shiites in Iraq which pose the greatest threat to the Iranian regime, since independent Shiite scholarship undercuts the theological legitimacy which the Iranian leadership seeks to claim.
At any rate, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s office today issues this release:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Statement by Keith Urbahn, Chief of Staff, Office of Donald Rumsfeld:
“The rumors currently making the rounds in some Arabic press outlets that allege Mr. Rumsfeld’s forthcoming memoir contains information about meeting with and bribing Grand Ayatollah Sistani are as laughable and inaccurate as they are disprovable. People will be able to see for themselves exactly what is in Known and Unknown when it becomes public on February 8.
Suffice it to say that Rumsfeld did not offer to pay for any of Grand Ayatollah Sistani’s opinions, nor would he have even entertained the thought. Furthermore, Rumsfeld never met with Sistani. Suggestions to the contrary are flat untrue.
Grand Ayatollah Sistani was and remains a courageous but distinctly independent voice in Iraq. It’s worth noting that the misinformation campaign began in Iranian-backed press outlets and looks to be nothing more than a not so clever attempt to mislead and sow mistrust among Iraqis.”
Now if only people will derive the proper lesson: The Iranian government lies unabashedly.