Dr Harith Al-Qarawee: Sistani, Iran, and the Future of Shii Clerical Authority in Iraq


In the aftermath of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani emerged as one of the most influential voices in Iraq. His dual role as a leading Shii figure in the Muslim world and a vocal and consistent voice for democracy and stability in Iraq has, at times, placed him at odds with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, as well as with radical forces inside Iraq. In this Brief, Harith Hasan al-Qarawee analyzes Sistani’s approach to authority in Iraq, his attitudes towards the Iranian role in Iraq, and the future of Najaf's hawza, one of the major centers of religious learning in the Shii world, in the aftermath of the aging Sistani's death. The Brief concludes that a post-Sistani Najaf will be more divided, weaker, and vulnerable to influence exerted by Iran.