RealNews

Reported Murder Plot Cements Cleric's Stature

The dark, intense eyes of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani stare soberly at Iraqis from mosque posters, car stickers, bookshop windows and framed photographs in offices and homes in this holy city — and, increasingly, the vast swath of predominantly Shiite Iraq. The omnipresent 75-year-old cleric, who has professed to be without political aspirations, is now arguably the most powerful man in the country. Any doubts about that were dispelled by the reaction to the reported attempt on his life here Thursday. The Arab world gasped collectively as word of the purported attempt was reported on satellite television channels throughout the region. A day later, it remained unclear what had happened, and Sistani’s office steadfastly denied any violent incident. But the reaction suggests Sistani’s importance — as well as the fragility of the political situation. “A successful assassination of Sistani would be a disaster for Iraq,” said Joost Hiltermann of the International Crisis Group research organization. “He has been a voice of moderation … and that moderating voice would be gone. Full Story

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