Informed Comment: The Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq held its annual party convention on Thursday and Friday and, according to Mariam Karouny of Reuters has decided to make some significant changes. They will drop the part of their party platform where they say that they take guidance from Iran's Supreme Jurisprudent, Ali Khamenei. Instead, they say they will be guided by the fatwas of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani of Najaf, the spiritual leader of Iraq's Shiites. This change has ideological consequences. Allegiance to Khamenei implies acceptance of the Khomeinist doctrine of Vilayat-i Faqih or the Guardianship of the Jurisprudent. It holds that political power should be held by a top theocrat. SCIRI's links to Khamenei also implied that the Jurisprudent's authority is transnational, reaching from Iran to Shiites in other countries, such as Iraq. But most Iraqi Shiites reject the Guardianship of the Jurisprudent, and even those who accept some version of it for the most part reject the idea that Khamenei has authority outside Iran.
Sistani rejects the Guardianship of the Jurisprudent in politics and government, but accepts it with regard to what he calls "the structure of society." That is why he intervened on matters such as whether Iraq would have one person, one vote elections, who would write its constitution, and whether the constitution would uphold Islamic law. But unlike Khamenei, Sistani has not the slightest interest in hold an official government position, much less ultimately being in charge of trash collection.
SCIRI will also change their name to the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, dropping the "revolution" element, they say, because that was a reference to their struggle against Saddam.
The changes clearly are aimed at Iraqizing the party, which was formed in 1982 at the suggestion of Ayatollah Khomeini in Tehran. It has all along been very close to the ayatollahs in Tehran, and is viewed by nativist Iraqi Shiite parties such as the Sadrists and the Da'wa as having a strong Iranian tinge. It should be remembered that the American public went wild with enthusiasm when the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq more or less won the January, 2005, parliamentary elections and 9 of 11 provinces where there are substantial Shiite populations-- including Baghdad. I just never could understand why the American Republican Party was so happy about a party loyal to Khamenei taking over Iraq. And they were snippy about it, too.