Allahpundit at Hot Air characterizes this as an atomic bombshell, and I’d say he’s right. Here’s why:
Huge news. To refresh: SCIRI is the name of one of Iraq’s biggest Shiite parties, short for the “Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.” It was formed in Iran in the early 1980s by Iraqi Khomeinists with the goal of replacing Saddam with Iranian-style clerical rule. Since the invasion, it’s presented itself as a peaceful, mainstream political party (successfully enough to earn its party leader, Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, a trip to the White House in December) while maintaining a militia — the Badr Organization, a.k.a. Badr Brigades — that functions as Sadr’s only serious rival for Shiite paramilitary dominance. Having kept counsel with the mullahs through the years, they’re widely suspected of being Iran’s chief proxy in Iraq.
Allah wonders if the change is real:
The question of the hour is whether they’re dropping the “R” and naming Sistani, who allegedly opposes Iranian-style rule by cleric, their spiritual leader because they’ve sincerely embraced democracy (Reuters says they’re promising to add democratic language to their new platform) or whether it’s a PR ploy to appeal to voters’ patriotism by “Iraqifying” the party’s image. Their main rivals, the Sadrists, are noisily nationalistic and, as I’ve mentioned recently, are reaching out to Sunnis to make themselves look even more so. The more “Iraqi” they become in the public’s mind, the more “Iranian” SCIRI becomes by contrast, which will do it no favors come election time. So one possible explanation is that they’re simply trying to keep up with Sadr by doing the same thing illegal immigrants did last year after the first few marches when they switched their Mexican flags for American ones.
More from Reuters:
Iraq’s most powerful Shi’ite party will make key changes to its platform, party officials said on Friday, in a move that will increasingly align it with Iraq’s top Shi’ite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
The changes could distance the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) from neighbouring Shi’ite Iran, where the party was formed in the 1980s to oppose the late President Saddam Hussein.
Under the new platform, the party would get its guidance from the Shi’ite religious establishment as before, but more from Sistani, SCIRI officials said.
That would mark a shift from SCIRI’s current platform, which says the group gets its guidance from the religious establishment of Welayat al Faqih, led by the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Iran.