Friday, May 23, 2008

Al-P False Report on Sistani (Updated)

The most important Shia cleric in both Iraq and Iran is Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. He has been very stabilizing, pro-government influence. Just within the past three months, he has given a major snub to Iran's President Ahmedinejad and thrown his support to the government in their call to disarm all militias, including Sadr's. So it was jaw dropping when al-P reported that Sistani was about to issue a fatwa calling Shia to arms against the U.S. And, indeed, it is false.


Grand Ayatollah Sistani is of the quietist school and, in the tradition of that school, does not involve himself in politics to a significant degree. He has been a hugely stabilizing influence in Iraq. Yet false stories about Sistani make into our MSM with fair regularity.

Last year, the NYT ran an article on their front page claiming that Grand Ayatollah Sistani had scuttled plans by the government to enact legislation bringing de-Baathification to an end. This would have been a huge setback for the reconciliation process - if it were true. Within two days, Sistani's office released a statement calling the story false. NYT never printed a correction. A similar scenario played out in the days after it was falsely reported that Sistani supported the continued existence of Sadr's Mahdi Army.

And thus we come to just an incredibly outlandish Al-P story that made its way around the blogs yesterday. Al-P, citing unnamed sources, reported that Sistani was on the cusp of issuing a fatwa to give his blessing to the targeting of American soldiers in Iraq. That would be unthinkable, really. Besides being wholly out of character, there were two dead giveaways that this report was false. One was the reporters' claim that Sistani also opposed the disarming of Sadr's militia - a topic Sistani has already clearly weighed in on to the contrary. The second was that the odious Juan Cole gave his impramatur to the general belief that Sistani would take such a stand. Mr. Cole's bias has left the accuracy of his prognostications below that of a broken clock. He's not even right twice a day.

Iraqi scholar and former Iraqi government official Nibras Kazimi found the al-P's story wholly unbelievable:

If we’ve learned anything from the recent events in Basra, Sadr City and Mosul—by the way, these are Iraq’s three largest population reservoirs—it should be that the reporters and commentators who are tasked to describe Iraq to American and western audiences are at worst dishonest and duplicious, at best some string puller’s chorus of useful idiots.

It is in this vein that this AP story is released; to distract from other things that could be reported in Iraq, such as how things are dramatically improving and how this war has been decisively won.

Read the entire post. Mr. Kazimi's suspicion that this was to put a damper on too much good news coming out of Iraq would seem a stretch but for subsequent events. No sooner had he blogged this, than Sistani's office responded through the Iraqi press, denying the report. Gateway Pundit has the translation.

Update: There is an article at the Weekly Standard confirming the falsity of the AP report and further discussing how AP regularly reports Sadrist propaganda.

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