When I first read yesterday that Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani had flown to London for heart treatment I thought, hoo-boy, here comes a bloody power struggle among Iraqi Shi’ites. Moqtada al-Sadr’s call for another insurrection in Najaf a few days earlier contributed to this belief.
However, the Times of London‘s former Middle East correspondent Hazhir Teimourian suspects that Sistani is clearing the deck so the US and the Brits can take al-Sadr out.
Teimourian is interviewed here by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Kirsten Aiken:
HAZHIR TEIMOURIAN: [If]Ayatollah Ali Sistani had been still against the occupation, he could have easily gone to France and made a statement that way by saying he was against the invasion of Iraq. But he’s chosen to be in London to leave his life into the custody of British surgeons and doctors. This is a major development.
KIRSTEN AIKEN: The Grand Ayatollah’s British contacts say that he has come to London to receive treatment for a heart condition, but you’re suggesting that by Ali Sistani making himself absent at this particular time, that he’s making his support known for the coalition. What does his absence, though, mean at this critical juncture for the Shi’ite population?
HAZHIR TEIMOURIAN: First of all, he’s made a declaration of support for the invasion of Iraq by the allies, and for the present Government. Secondly, practically, he is not being there in the holy city of Najaf where some of the fighting is taking place – he’s made it easier for the coalition troops as well as for the Iraqi National Guard to take on Moqtada al-Sadr’s men.