The events around the assassination of Shiite leader Abd al-Majid Khu’i in Najaf a couple of days ago remain murky. From what I can tell, though, Khu’i got involved in trying to defend a man named Kalidar, the keeper of Ali’s shrine in Najaf, from an angry crowd who was accusing him of having collaborated with Saddam’s regime. The charges were said to be coming in particular from followers of the late Ayatollah Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, who had been assassinated by Saddam’s men in 1999. It is possible that Kalidar avoided assassination by collaboration and that this is known and resented in the city. Khu’i apparently fired a pistol in the air a couple of times to disperse the mob. But they were close enough to crowd in on him and Kalidar and to hack them to pieces with knives. Khu’i may have died because he was trying to reconcile Shiite factions who are irreconcilable now that Saddam is gone. Because Khu’i was apparently America’s man in Najaf and because he failed so signally and so early in his task, this incident seems a bad omen for the future. And, the thing I wonder about is whether al-Sadr’s followers are in some way aligned with Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq somehow. If that were the case, the incident would be even more sinister, since al-Hakim is in Tehran and aligned with Iran’s hardliners.