Who Speaks for Iraqi Shiites? Not Iran's Ayatollahs (The Weekly Standard)

"Shiites are mostly always loyal to Iran and not the countries where they live." So said Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in a televised interview in April 2006. In December 2004, Jordan's King Abdullah warned that a new, Shia-dominated Iraq would become part of a "Shiite crescent," extending from Iran to Lebanon, presumably under the firm grip of Iran's "supreme leader," Ali Khamenei. Many Western analysts shared these views, and commented that while America had liberated the country from Saddam's dictatorship, Tehran would prove the real power broker in the new Iraq. A minority of analysts (Reuel Marc Gerecht in these pages among them) rejected this view. They argued that an independent Shiite religious leadership would flourish in Iraq, and ultimately come to challenge Khamenei's power over Shiites across the region, even in Iran itself. So far, the minority view is prevailing, as the leaders of Iraqi Shiism have asserted their independence from Iranian authority. The reemergence of Iraq's Shiite leadership comes as the Iranian regime, having dropped all but the thinnest pretense of democracy, now stands only on the religious claims of authority made by Ali Khamenei. And there are indications that many Iranians reject these claims.