The Corner

Shia Utopia?

Nina Shea has a vitally important op-ed in today’s Dallas Morning News, warning that the United States is presiding over the very real possibility that its blood and treasure has been used to create a Shia-run Islamic theocracy. She’s right, and it is utterly appalling. Christianity Today reports that Iraqi Christian leaders in the US are predicting an exodus of their people from Iraq if sharia becomes the basis for law in the new Iraq. If the Shia parties prevail, I believe our country owes every Christian or other non-Muslim religious minority who wishes to flee asylum.

Nina’s piece makes the following excerpt from an early April essay David Rieff wrote for the Wall Street Journal particularly prescient:

Even those who view the country’s progress from the most optimistic perspective tend to unite in crediting Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the spiritual leader of Iraq’s majority Shiites, with having held the country together and used his commanding authority to legitimize January’s democratic elections. Ayatollah Sistani’s own medieval views on subjects ranging from Sharia law to the status of women are presented as being of little concern. “You can’t get to Thomas Jefferson without first having Martin Luther,” is the way the conservative Middle Eastern specialist, Reuel Marc Gerecht, once put it to me.

Historical analogies (and their 300-year lag times) aside, there is at least as compelling an alternate scenario: That what Ayatollah Sistani has done is used the democratic process to secure power for the Shiite community. In other words, that it is less that he and his fellow ayatollahs in Najaf share Washington’s project of democratizing the Middle East so much as the Bush administration’s commitment to initiate the vast project of a social transformation of a whole region by force of arms happened to dovetail with Shiite political ambitions and that the moment these interests no longer dovetail, it will become clear what kind of Iraqi society American blood and treasure has really brought into being.

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