Doing what Sistani says

Grand Ayatollah Sistani is asking for US troops to leave Najaf and Karbala. According to Sistani he wants to “‘allow the police and tribal forces to perform their role in preserving security and order.'”

I think this is a good idea. I don’t think the US should commit to a full-scale withdrawal, but they should say that they will withdraw to the perimeters of both cities for 72 hours. If the situation improves, they will stay out; if it worsens, they will enter. They will gaurd the outskirts of the city and prevent people from entering who are not authorized to do so.

By doing this, you show respect to Sistani, something we haven’t been doing so far and desperately need to do. There have also been reports that shrines in these cities have been damaged. I have no reason to think that the US is responsible, and the fact that the cities haven’t exploded against us means most Iraqis feel the same way. However, the potential for blame is high, and it will really damage the US cause, in many ways much more than Abu Ghuraib has. We know there are Iraqis who blame Muqtada as-Sadr for desecrating the sites and who are actively working against him. To me Sistani’s request is saying that the problem is an Iraqi one, Sadr started it, and he’s going to finish it. The fact that Sistani is not only making a stand on US withdrawal, but saying “tribal forces” will deal with it means Sadr’s days are few. Three days should be good enough to secure the sites, and avoid turning Sadr into a martyr at the hands of the US.

I think we need to respect Sistani on this one.