Najaf: The Aftermath as Viewed by Iraqis
Abbas Kadhim evaluates “Sistan’s triumph” at al-Ahram Weekly. He writes:
The real winner at the end of the crisis was Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani. His return home from a trip to London for medical treatment accomplished a lot for him and for the disputants alike. First, his return cast away allegations that he left the city to avoid any involvement in the crisis. Indeed, no matter what the truth may have been, history would never have treated his trip kindly if he had not made this comeback. Secondly, his well-staged entry to Iraq and the rally that accompanied him from Basra to Najaf was a reminder to everyone that the era of powerless Hawza was over. Such a rally was not assembled in Iraq for an Ayatollah for over half a century. Thirdly, Ayatollah Al-Sistani is now about to be the turbaned king of Iraq — a father figure for all Iraqis. I say, “about to be” because there is more he needs to do in order to acquire this status and displace many easily replaceable political leaders in Iraqi society.
To become the father for all Iraqis, Al-Sistani must extend his hand to other parts of Iraq that are still in peril. His rescue of Najaf is boxed in his status as a Shia cleric saving his hometown. He needs to exit from this confinement and move to the wider Shia areas, such as Al-Sadr City, and eventually — maybe more importantly — to Sunni areas. Winning peace for Falluja, Samarra and Baqouba would be the highest triumph any Shia cleric has accomplished in Iraq for over a century. By doing so, Al-Sistani would become a national figure rather than a sectarian leader. His unchallenged authority would benefit all Iraqis and this would earn him the affection not only of Shia, but also of other Iraqis, many of whom already think highly of him.
Meanwhile Nermeen Mufti reports from Najaf on the aftermath of the battles there and on the confusion of people in that devastated city.