Najaf clerics mirror fears Tehran's influence in post-US Iraq would grow
By: Ismail Zabeeh
HOLY CITY OF NAJAF, Iraq: Associated Press reported that behind the
scenes in this holy city, Shiite clerics are quietly intriguing over
who will succeed the sect's most revered and politically influential
leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, in a tussle that circles
around money and foreign meddling as much as knowledge and piety.
The report further said that there are already signs neighboring Iran
is seeking to increase its influence in Najaf and has long-term hopes
of seeing a figure closer to Tehran's clerical leadership eventually
ascend to Sistani's position.
According to insiders in Najaf, Tehran is beefing up its presence in
the city, which has long maintained a stubborn independence from
Iran's Shiite theological centers.
"There are sometimes attempts by hidden hands to meddle in the
affairs of the marjaiyah," said Sheik Ali al-Najafi, the son and top
aide to Pakistani-born Ayatollah Bashir An-Najafi, one of the city's
four top clerics. Marjaiyah is Arabic for the collective Shiite
"It is to be expected that foreign nations meddle in Najaf," he said,
in an implicit reference to Iran.
An aide to As-Sistani said top clerics from Iran, including Supreme
Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have recently opened representative
offices in Najaf, with some collecting the "khoms," or "fifth," and
enrolling students in seminaries run by their representatives.
"When the Americans leave, the Iranians will play with us as they
please," said the al-Sistani aide, mirroring fears in Najaf and
elsewhere in Iraq that Tehran's influence in post-U.S. Iraq would
grow. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of
As-Sistani has kept his distance from Iran's regime and,
significantly, does not subscribe to the religious principle on which
the Islamic republic is based: "welayet al-faqeeh," or the right of
the most learned cleric to hold political power.
More likely, Iran is looking long-term, hoping that by building its
influence among Najaf's lower clerics, it can ensure a figure close to
its ruling clergy eventually rises to the top.
Since there is no figure with as-Sistani's stature, it is possible a
weak or ailing successor moves in as a stopgap. The insiders say it is
also possible that no one takes as-Sistani's title, and the three
other grand ayatollahs continue to function the same way as they do
now, the report concluded.
better than wealth because it protects you while you have to
guard wealth. it decreases if you keep on spending it but the
more you make use of knowledge ,the more it increases . what you
get through wealth disappears as soon as wealth disappears but
what you achieve through knowledge will remain even after you."MORE