“As the top spiritual leader in the Shiite Muslim world, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has instructed his followers on what to eat and how to wash, how to marry and to bury their dead. As a temporal guide, he has championed Iraqi democracy, insisting on direct elections from the earliest days of the occupation, and warned against Iranian-style clerical rule………… Frail at 81, he still greets visitors each morning at his home on a narrow and sooty side street here, only steps from the glimmering gold dome of the Imam Ali Shrine. But the jockeying to succeed him has quietly begun, and Iran is positioning its own candidate for the post, a hard-line cleric who would give Tehran a direct line of influence over the Iraqi people, heightening fears that Iran’s long-term goal is to transplant its Islamic Revolution to Iraq………..”
This is truly nonsense, and shows complete Western ignorance of the degree of independence the Shi’a Hawza has of any government. Even the intrusive Baathist regime could not meddle directly in its affairs. Even Ayatollah Ali Khamenei can’t intervene in the selection of Iranian religious leaders, let alone the Hawza in Iraq. The Najaf Hawza selects its own top Marj’e, the top Shi’a theologian, based on his scholarship, seniority, and how other clerics judge him. It is completely independent of any regime. This is not like the Saudi king appointing and firing his own palace Mufti at will or appointing the members of the Ulema (senior clerics) Council.
FYI- speaking of the Saudi king: soon he may be able to appoint the king of his new province of Bahrain and fire him at will.