This seems like kind of a big deal:
Iraq's most influential Shiite cleric has been quietly issuing religious edicts declaring that armed resistance against U.S.-led foreign troops is permissible -- a potentially significant shift by a key supporter of the Washington-backed government in Baghdad.
The edicts, or fatwas, by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani suggest he seeks to sharpen his long-held opposition to American troops and counter the populist appeal of his main rivals, firebrand Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army militia.
But -- unlike al-Sadr's anti-American broadsides -- the Iranian-born al-Sistani has displayed extreme caution with anything that could imperil the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
It’s difficult to overstate how essential Sistani’s support has been for the task of rebuilding Iraq, or how quickly the U.S. would lose what little legitimacy it still has there if Sistani were to indicate that U.S. forces were no longer welcome. If this report is accurate, it clearly indicates that he is leaning in that direction.
This could also represent the final nail in the coffin of the neoconservative fantasy of establishing an enduring military presence in Iraq, from which to project U.S. power throughout the region. The article notes that the shift in Sistani’s position “underlines possible opposition to any agreement by Baghdad to allow a long-term U.S. military foothold in Iraq — part of a deal that is currently under negotiation and could be signed as early as July”
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