Looking For What One Expects

Longtime sparring partner Eric Martin, over at Democracy Arsenal, echoed super-Iraq-expert Juan Cole in pointing to the AP story on Al-Sistani moving closer to Al-Sadr by legitimizing attacks on Alliance troops – back on May 23.

Reacting to the story that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is beginning to take a more militant stand in opposition to the US occupation, Kevin Drum asks, “Why now?” I briefly mentioned some of the possible motivations in my post on the Sistani story (as did Cernig and Matt Duss), but Juan Cole offers a good summary of some of the more compelling speculation.

To reiterate (as Cole himself does), this is only plausible speculation and there is no way to know Sistani’s motivations for sure. What is known for sure, however, is that Sistani’s shift on this topic (or, perhaps, willingness to vocalize an unchanged position) is a severe setback to those that envision a 100 year presence in Iraq – complete with massive permanent bases, theme parks and luxury hotels:

I saw the story and started chasing it down with some concern. Here’s what I found:

A close source to grand ayatollah Ali Sistani’s office on Friday denied news agencies’ reports the Shiite cleric issued a fatwa permiting taking up weapons to drive the foreign occupation forces out of Iraq.

“The reports of issuing fatwa by the Shiite cleric Sistani permiting taking up arms to drive foreign troops out of Iraq were baseless”.

International news agencies reported Sistani issued a fatwa, an edict, legalizing Iraqis to hold up arms to drive US troops out of Iraq.

The source, a cleric from Karbala associated with Sistani office,pointed out “Sistani’s stance is clear since toppling the former regime(of Saddam Hussein) by calling for sticking to civil resistence to drive foreign troops out of Iraq”.

Ali Sistani, living in Najaf, is the top cleric and hold a strong sway over Shiites in Iraq and a number muslim countries.

The article – dated May 23. On Democracy Arsenal – or Kevin Drum’s site, where Eric is guest-blogging? Crickets. At least Juan Cole had the candor to acknowledge (even if he’s dismissive) the updated information.

The reality of Arab politics is close to the definition of ‘obscure’. Paying close attention is a good thing. But it’d be nice to see Martin acknowledge how easy it is to look into the obscurity and see what you want – and expect – to see.

2 thoughts on “Looking For What One Expects”

  1. Much like all the vaunted analysis that instantly (and far too soon for a reasonable investigation) declared the Basra operation a massive failure, the lie makes it half way around the globe before the truth has its shoes laced up.

    A little knowledge combined with moral certainty of your beliefs is a dangerous brew… and boths sides have drunken plenty of it over the course of this war (myseld included).

  2. Juan Cole, really, has it gotten that bad that WOC has to cite this clown? A non-Arabic speaking, self identified “Iraq Expert” whose continual analysis falls short of almost everything people on the ground report. Cole continues to regurgitate the work of others from years past, and his understanding of modern Islamic/Arab societies suffers from this. When I feel like having a good laugh, I show his analysis on Iran to the 3 Iranian Bahai’s I work with, who then rip from one end to the other his “analysis”. Of course, Cole’s veiled antisemitism seeps through much of his work, to the point that he makes Mearsheimer & Walt look rational.

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