The Corner

Sistani the Moderate

Over the last couple of years, we’ve had some spirited debate in these parts about whether Iraq’s Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani is an authentic Muslim moderate who is a huge plus for the Bush administration’s democracy project, or, as I have maintained (see, e.g., here and here), an Islamic fundamentalist of the familiar anti-Semitic, anti-infidel, anti-gay variety who embraced “democracy” (i.e., not real democracy but popular elections) because it was the easiest route to Shiite rule … the first step on the road to a Shiite Sharia state.

Now, former Reagan administration official John Agresto is weighing in.  Agresto, who appeared on Hugh Hewitt’s show yesterday, has a new book out, Mugged by Reality, which is a memoir of his recent nine months of service in Iraq as an adviser to the education ministry.  Here is some of what he has to say about Sistani:

We insisted that the Ayatollah Sistani was surely a “moderate” and a friend to civil and religious liberty despite all the hard evidence to the contrary. Let me repeat my previous observations and predictions: The Ayatollah Sistani is an Islamist bent on establishing a theocracy not far removed from that found in Iran. He is an open anti-Semite and a not-too-subtle anti-Christian. He threw his support behind democratic elections because they were the handy vehicles for imposing religious authority all over Iraq. Nor is he the only one, or even the worst, only the most prominent. Yet while I believe the evidence is as clear here as it is in the case of [Ahmad] Chalabi, we only see what we want to see, not what’s visible. In our religious lives, hope may well be a virtue — but in foreign policy it is more often a sin, a temptation to willful blindness.

Most Popular

Immigration

My American Dream

This morning, at 8 a.m., I did something I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember: I became an American. I first applied for a visa in early 2011, and since then I have slowly worked my way through the system — first as a visa-holder, then as a permanent resident (green card), and, finally, as a ... Read More
U.S.

The Gun-Control Debate Could Break America

Last night, the nation witnessed what looked a lot like an extended version of the famous “two minutes hate” from George Orwell’s novel 1984. During a CNN town hall on gun control, a furious crowd of Americans jeered at two conservatives, Marco Rubio and Dana Loesch, who stood in defense of the Second ... Read More
Religion

Billy Graham: Neither Prophet nor Theologian

Asked in 1972 if he believed in miracles, Billy Graham answered: Yes, Jesus performed some and there are many "miracles around us today, including television and airplanes." Graham was no theologian. Neither was he a prophet. Jesus said "a prophet hath no honor in his own country." Prophets take adversarial ... Read More
Film & TV

Why We Can’t Have Wakanda

SPOILERS AHEAD Black Panther is a really good movie that lives up to the hype in just about every way. Surely someone at Marvel Studios had an early doubt, reading the script and thinking: “Wait, we’re going to have hundreds of African warriors in brightly colored tribal garb, using ancient weapons, ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Obstruction Confusions

In his Lawfare critique of one of my several columns about the purported obstruction case against President Trump, Gabriel Schoenfeld loses me — as I suspect he will lose others — when he says of himself, “I do not think I am Trump-deranged.” Gabe graciously expresses fondness for me, and the feeling is ... Read More