After Sistani and Khamenei: Looming Successions Will Shape the Middle East

After Sistani and Khamenei: Looming Successions Will Shape the Middle East



welcome everyone thank you for making the time and let me welcome you all to the Atlantic Council my name is William Wexler I am the director of Middle East programs here at the Atlantic Council we're looking for we're looking forward today to a really interesting discussion of something that we know is going to happen in the future actuarial tables tell us so and it's also something that the United States that will matter a lot to the United States will have deep impact on US interests but is also something that the United States can't control at all so I amid rising tensions with Iran our future of Iran initiative and our Iraq initiative are hosting today's event to consider the implications of two important successions in the shia community how they'll affect policies in the Middle East and beyond as both of them are now in their ninth decade of life it's natural to think about who might succeed Grand Ayatollah Sistani and Naja and Ayatollah Khomeini in Tehran if how manis case let us first remember that Iran has only had one succession since 1979 but even though a smooth transition there is far from a given Iran has constitutional avenues for that succession contrast this with Iraq where no formalities adjudicate this coming process Sistani x' death could could could result in a succession process that moves relatively quickly with some degree of finality or it could assure in a power struggle within Iraq's Shia community and potentially destabilize the country it's important to consider not only when you know not only who will replace each one of these important Shia leaders but when this will happen which one happens first what's the sequence what's the what's in what's events that will roll out today's panelists will consider all of these questions including foreign influence in Iraq Iranian politics future nuclear agreements and the implications on the United States following a moderated discussion with them we'll turn the mic over to the audience for questions the event this event can suck Koen sides with the release of a new report from us entitled after Sistani and how many how looming successions will shape the Middle East by two of the Atlantic Council zone abbas Kadhim and Barbara Slavin that new report is now available to download on our website our first panelist is dr. Bosque Adam director of our Iraq initiative who has extensive experience in the region and has served as a senior foreign policy fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies before coming here amongst his longer bio what you have in your documents joining Abbas is Barbara Slavin the director of our future of Iran initiative she also serves as an adjunct professor at George Washington's University's Elliott School of International Affairs as a columnist for al-monitor and rounding out the panel is a prominent Shia scholar Mohammed I toll icky Tabar who is currently an associate professor in the international affairs department at the bush school government at Texas A&M University and a fellow at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy and dr. bohlson Milani who is executive director of the Center for Strategic and diplomatic Studies and a professor of politics at the School of International interdisciplinary Global Studies at the University of South Florida will serve as moderator today now please join me in giving a warm welcome to our speakers as they take their places on the stage [Applause] good afternoon it's a great honor great pleasure to be back here the last time I was here was in February discussing the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran and I thought it was a very successful and informative discussion today we are going to discuss the succession process in Iraq and in Iran when Barbara asked me to moderate this I agreed to do it she knows me and she knows how I usually moderate discussions she told me I have carte blanche to do what I want to do I think she is going to regret it by the end of the day coming from a country with 2,500 years of despotic rule don't count on it the way I'm going to moderate the program is that I'm gonna start with Barbara I have three daughters and wife who will kill me if I start with a man and not with a woman and then I'm gonna go to our boss I'm gonna come back to Barbara and then to our boss and then to Mohammed and then we're gonna go to the second round of discussion I'm gonna ask him to be very precise no more than three to four minutes each and then occasionally I'm gonna challenge and so I'm gonna start with Barbara I've read the report it's a fantastic report but I'm pretty sure everybody can read those that your report I want to go beyond the report and what I want to ask you is to discuss two factors that you think could have profound influence in the selection of the next supreme leader number one is the institution of beta referee or the office of the Supreme Leader because men are Tola hominy died they were no more than two or three hundred people in that office today we know that it's thousands secondly when artola hominy died the Revolutionary Guard was a powerful force it is a powerful force today so please tell us what is the role of those two institutions in the selection process first Muhsin thank you I'm so glad you accepted our invitation and and may I say it is an honor to be here with such fantastic and recognized academics who have true scholarship in this field I'm a humble journalist so I'm a little bit masquerading but this these issues are our issues I've followed for for some time and even had a little bit of a participation in an in a funny way when ayatollah russ and johnny was deciding to run for re-election and i interviewed his son in 2005 and his son said that if his father were elected president he would make the leaders office he would make the leader like the king of england ie ceremonial and this quotation had an enormous impact in Iran and probably was one of the reasons that Rafsanjani did not deserve a third term as president because supreme leader was very upset needless to say but you post you post very important questions the office of supreme leader in Iran is very different obviously from the the role that Ayatollah Sistani plays in in the Shia community around the world I was a soviet scholar in my youth and so I tend to look at Iran through a Soviet lens and I think it works very very well I see the Supreme Leader is essentially the General Secretary of the Communist Party he is the chief apparatchik in the country major decisions are made through consensus but the supreme leader has the last word and as you point out he has representatives in every nook and cranny of Iran people who owe their their existence to him and to his leadership so I think that the way this is going to be handled is that you're going to have someone who does who may have the name Ayatollah who may even wear a black turban signifying descent from the Prophet Muhammad but this is primarily going to be an apparatchik someone who is steeped in the institutions of the Islamic Republic who has been groomed by Ayatollah Khamenei and and his supporters and will ensure that the Nizam the system is perpetuated after the death of Ayatollah Khamenei and for that reason I have listed Ibrahim Rossi as as the most likely he's the head of the judiciary he's also the secretary of the Assembly of Experts which is the organization that nominally chooses the Supreme Leader his father-in-law is the friday prayer leader in the shrine city of Mashhad very very wealthy the Supreme Leader picks prayer leaders Friday prayer leaders for all the major communities throughout Iran it's one of the important ways in which he gets his message across so I think ricey ricey is also relatively young he's only 58 and he's a Sayyad he wears a black turban as did I have told a hominid and ayatollah hominid so i still think you have to give him you know the biggest shot he's also well entrenched obviously now with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps because he's head of the judiciary and the IRGC and its organs are extremely influential in terms of who gets arrested who gets prosecuted in Iran as we know the IRGC has its own branch intelligence branch which is responsible for detaining dissidents women journalists dual nationals anyone they decide is a useful hostage for whatever reason and of course where I see as since he heads the judiciary is totally plugged in with the people so you know that's number one I I do mention in the paper that rouhani Hassan rouhani the current President of Iran does still have a shot at this and the reason is that he's not a moderate and anytime you you see him described as a moderate you're not looking at good scholarship he is the pillar of the Islamic Republic he's been there forever he served in very important positions and if you've noticed since the u.s. left the Iran nuclear deal he's been tacking very much to the right so that there's very little distance between him and so-called hardliners so I still think he has a shot as well thank you very much I was John you have identified five or six leading ayatollahs that could replace like two Louis Tony and you said this succession after the Grand Ayatollah Sistani is going to determine and I'm quoting you Iraq's independence and if Iran can export its revolution of those that you have identified which one do you think is least likely to achieve those two goals that's I told you you might know that's that's well I believe that all of those that I identified that they really have no shot at filling the exact space that Grand Ayatollah Sistani had that Grand Ayatollah Sistani had a maybe one in a thousand year opportunity to create a profile for the Marja in Iraq that it was created by him he did it naturally he did it with the passage of time and would the right circumstances so whoever is going to replace Grand Ayatollah Sistani is not going to function exactly with the same power with the same Authority with the same expertise and with the same style that Grand Ayatollah Sistani has had will take at least time for for them to to do this but I don't see anyone who will be having a stronger or a weaker chance of doing what Grand Ayatollah Sistani is doing right now because simply there is no one right now who can just be installed in place of Grand Ayatollah Sistani I don't function the same eat anyone that will succeed in will have to struggle and will have to be under tremendous pressure to rise to the level of Grand Ayatollah Sistani at this point think Ayatollah Sistani is an exception as you said in a thousand years what is what characteristic does he have what psychological attribute as he have that makes him so popular in Iraq and perhaps beyond the rock well a couple of things I can think of one is about him and another that is not much about him for all of the history previous history before Sistani came and the Noor Jaya was more of a an institution that is not just completely separate from the state but also not having that political space that it was filling the way it is right now Iraq and Naja was not free of political pressure from emerges standpoint as it is right now that is that is important we are we used to think about the merger someone who is under the thumb of some political tyranny whether it was the Ottomans or it was the you know the the Baathist regime most recently whatever the state that was there it wasn't close ideologically or even in in sectarian terms to the Marja idea that this is a one in a history one time in a long history that the merger right now is really having its hundred percent and and also hundred percent freedom to act within the quality that Iraq is part of what is about Grand Ayatollah Sistani that makes him exceptional is this tremendous sense of self-restraint rhonda Ayatollah Sistani overnight could be more than just a relief appear he could be anything and he could have for himself any scope of power that he is willing to have he decided not to have any power over the power of what he defines as the role of dimaggio which is a guidance role and also what is important about him is that he is one of the only ones I really I can the only one I can think of who is supportive of a civil state in Iraq and this is something that is a completely fresh when you think about where the all of the Mirage before him start the role of religion in the state he is supportive of a completely democratic course in a country that is respectful of the diversity of the Iraqis realizing that not all of the Iraqis are subscribing to one religious thought and this is really something that he is hundreds of years probably ahead of of the people who were of his class and whether it's in Iran or elsewhere Thank You Barbara I want to ask you about the the nature of the transition post ayatollah khamenei transition if you look at the Iranian history from the middle of the nineteenth century until the 1979 revolution we had six kings if I'm not mistaken one King was assassinated one king ruled for a few years and died the other four were exiled Ayatollah Khomeini is the first leader in hundred fifty years that I know that died almost as popular as when he ascended to power do you think considering everything that you've been hearing Washington about the Iranian regime is about to collapse and all that stuff most of a delusional but if you do you see a peaceful transition if so why do you see a peaceful transition or do you see a more problematic a more turbulent transition if so what are the signs that we need to look at – to see the future first you know with all due humility things happen in Iran that no one can predict and we don't know what the geopolitical situation is going to be when this succession occurs you know if if god forbid the United States attacks Iran and we're in the middle of a war and Ayatollah Khamenei dies it's an it's possible there could even be a military coup and that the IRGC instead of ruling from behind the scenes would would simply assume power I mean we have to allow for that possibility there could be a council instead of a single individual if if the regime cannot settle on one candidate for whatever reason or the regime seems extremely unpopular and they want to kind of diffuse the animosity by having three men instead of just one you know ricey is unpopular for his role in being part of a series of prosecutors who sentenced prisoners to death in the 1980s when he was very young and part of the judiciary so they might want to defuse the animosity and it's a very unpopular system so how will they contend without when the succession occurs but that said I mean the Islamic Republic is so much better organized now than it was when when Khomeini died you know these institutions as you point out artists so entrenched now that's why I compared it to the Communist Party it's like you have you know party committees essentially everywhere you have representatives of the Supreme Leader everywhere you have IRGC you have besieged all of these are institutionalized and deep within the society so they ought to be able to choose someone in advance and have a fairly smooth transition when when Khomeini died there was some confusion because the man he had designated as his successor he then dismissed he was angry at him because of criticism and they had to scramble a little bit but I would bet they already have identified someone now who will most likely be rubber stamped by the Assembly of Experts and and move into the seat two quick points about but you said number one is I don't remember the name but one of the members of the Assembly of Experts for leadership said that they already have identified three individuals please when the time of question-answer comes I'll be more than happy to give you as much time as oh thank you mister thank you all right that was the message to the rest of you he said that that there are three individuals and those change didn't identify who they were but he also said that they could change one additional point that you made about comparing the Communist Party with the situation in Iran I agree with you in terms of a structure it's the same but there is one fundamental difference and that is why the Islamic Republic has survived for 40 years shi ism has come out of this Iranian society shi ism is not alien to the Iranians we've been having it at least for 500 years and even before that in certain parts of Iran that I think is an important factor to consider abortion you talk also about the Shia militias and how different I tolas who replaced the Grand Ayatollah could have different relationship with these malicious again based on the same a question I asked you at the beginning tell us which one of those you think is most likely to have the friendliest relationship with these militias and which one is likely to have least friendly and perhaps even antagonistic relationship with these Shia militias again it's important to when we describe the relation between Grand Ayatollah Sistani and the fighting forces in Iraq some call the militias and call them popular mobilization is that even though these were established following the historic fatwa he gave on the 13th of June 2014 but the fatwa itself did not call for making militias nor did he call for making fighting groups on their own to go as freelancers the fatwa precisely says that Iraqis should join the Armed Forces to go and defend the country because the Armed Forces had the collapse of morale and they melted away and they needed people to go and volunteer and and fill that gap the problem is that the state itself was not ready the the military and the civilian part of the state wasn't ready to absorb those tens of thousands of people who showed up most of them with their own personal weapons and that allowed room for some of the fighting forces in Iraq to recruit those people and take them and it was the the act that saved Iraq at least for the first few weeks when everything was wasn't collapse that is important therefore any relation or any talk about a relation between militias and Grand Ayatollah Sistani it's kind of really it needs to be understood in this context he did not for malicious he did not call for them in all of the Friday prayer speeches sermons that were given since 2014 not once they mentioned them by those names he always talked about the volunteers in other words he is not interested in that organized fighting that was going on in this this is important however these are people who who served a function and they have a important role in Iraq now the state itself has a a constitutional framework there is a law that was passed in 2016 that is supposed to be implemented the Prime Minister just issued an executive order to implement that law a couple of weeks ago now after a Grand Ayatollah Sistani I assume that the the most likely people who are going to follow him that is the most senior na Raja or grand ayatollahs in Najaf and it is my opinion that whoever follows a Sistani will be someone from the who is cool Hui Grand Ayatollah who died in 1992 he is probably the master of all of the scholars in the twentieth century or at least the second half of 20th century so that school does not is not interested in militias and Trump is not interested in and having relations with power the main success of Sistani that made him that powerful and that or authoritative is that he is not using guns or violence or anything – or the state power his word is stronger than this the word of the state and its military because people follow him and people follow him from their own conscience anybody who enters into this Malaysia politics were really doom himself into failure because that's not how the Shia actually are designed the function rank and file but that said of course now F Sistani god forbade passes very soon our in the in the foreseeable future while Iraq is in this situation I would imagine that there are certain not the the top-tier but a few other hopefuls who think that they can have a shot at it if they get help from militias and there are also militias who are interested in having someone that's a towards them will push and their way I don't believe that Najaf will work and that in that system but that could be a there would be probably some struggle towards that event but the ones that I identify that are possible natural followers of sage Sistani none of them will have close relations to the militias because that's not how they operate Barbara has a question but before she asks you the question it seems to me based on reading your stuff I'm reading a lot of other stuff that you Britain and they are always fantastic it seems to me you've come to the conclusion that nobody is going to replace this donnie that system is an aberration in history of Najaf hota am I correct in assuming a future nobody can replace him because again he is a towering figure because of the unusual circumstances and also the unusual personalities I've seen many grand ayatollahs in my life I am the born in Najaf and I lived 20 most of half of my life and there it's I know but basically I have never met someone with the charisma with the power and with the sort of chemistry that you can get as I seen from Grand Ayatollah Sistani and a couple of Santa Barbara is the one who invited me I'd let her break the rule and ask you a question thank you I just you know I didn't I didn't push this in the actual paper but I'm curious do you think of the the people that you list is there any of them that Iran would prefer because we know they had a candidate Ayatollah shock Rudy who passed away he was accounted either for Supreme Leader or for for the top margin but is there anyone on that list or someone you didn't mention that you think the Iranians would like to have in that role on the list itself I think Iran probably if they want anything they would like and Iran here is the sort of Iran is complex you know which part of Iran but you know probably the establishment of the little poppy they are not interest interested in a strong Nigel so their preference is a weak person who cannot really do what grand artists and all of the people I'm listing who are in Najaf right now as I said they are from the hooey tradition of thinking and positions and I don't think any one of them will be Korean water for the Iranians they will any one of them will be there will be interested in Lee and the independence of Najaf will be interested in the continuation of the current trend and sustain his legacy but also let's not go into understanding that they will be against Iran in a way because it is not in their interest to have a shyah shyah struggle but they will continue that kind of public decorum public respect and they will but on the other hand you will see that there are red lines that are not to be crossed from both sides Muhammad has been sitting there very quietly taking notes and please go ahead and if you have any comments about what they have said please go ahead and share it thank you thank you for the invitation it's really great to be here I just want to add a few points to what Barbara and Abbas mentioned in terms of the importance of the in the institution of Nigeria and then maybe one minor point about what Barbara said at the end about the the Council of leadership excuse me the institution of marriage area is certainly a national security issue in Iran in Iraq and perhaps other countries in the Persian Gulf but it is particularly important for Iran I think for three main reasons number one is the complicated relationship that Iran has had with Iraq throughout history that kind of predates the Iranian Revolution even predates Saddam Hussein's reign one way that Iranian rulers have thought that they could manage this complicated relationship is through Najaf so this is a long relations that Iran has had with massive the Shah of Iran had good ties with with clear externa Japan and she and networks in Iraq even within the Iraq are me the second issue is the Iran's political system and the concept of a lot Vevey which is the philosophical cornerstone of Iran's political system Iran cannot allow any religious institution in Iraq to challenge its monopoly over the use of religion so that is why I think you're absolutely right of us that Iran would like to see a relatively weak nature but I think that the third point a third reason is probably more important at this point and that is the the post jcpoa environment as president rouhani and foreign minister Zarif seem to have lost hope that they could improve relations with the United States and Europe and tensions in the Middle East are increasing it seems that Iran's foreign policy is becoming more focused on the Middle East and Iraq is absolutely central in in this and Iran views the shy establishment in Iraq and overall Shia nationalism in in the broader Middle East as an important – as basically an important deterrence that they can use against the United States and its allies I think the implications of all of this is that number one Iran has to make sure that nijah would not disrupt Iran's foreign policy making a nice use of Shia nationalism in the region it's absolutely I think essential to to Iran's national security and also to the regime security more importantly I think Iran's nightmare is let's say a senior version of most other such that would be someone equivalent to how many basically so this is this is the nightmare that could that could create problems for Iran and I think the other implication is that the next two leader whoever that is would probably continue the hardline policy foreign policy in the region unless because the regional conditions change if we had this event two years ago when the jcpoa was still working I think we would have had a completely different conversation perhaps we would be saying that rouhani had had a higher chance maybe but at this point it seems that the the political elites in Iran are kind of uniting behind behind the Supreme Leader's view of I guess region and doubling down on Iran's role in the region to counter us this confrontation against against against Iran one minor point on council of leadership as Barbara said so in the old Constitution that was one of the possibilities that in the absence of if the elites could not agree on one leader so Iran could have they could choose either three or five Duras to be the Council of leaders but eventually they decided that having Council doesn't really work because the judiciary was basically run under Council of leadership and there were other experiences that led Iranian leaders in 1988-89 that this is not and so they decided to remove that but what they did was they actually put that as a temporary condition that the three individuals as as Barbara mentioned the president the head of the judiciary and one person chosen by the one member of the Guardian Council chosen by the experi the experience council could they could constitute a Council of leadership or temporarily but they the the important point is that although its temporal it there is no deadline so as Barbara said actually it depends on what time the timeframe in which how many dies if if they could not agree on one candidate or if there is a fear of a public revolt that if we choose race either there could be a backlash they could actually do exactly what you said and that is they could say that in Soviet terms of what happened after Stalin died it took a while before who Schaaf became general the the acknowledged leader of the Soviet Union and something like this you know depending on the service all right thank you very much now I'm going back to Barbara actually one of the questions I was going to ask you Mohammed addressed but I'm gonna ask you a question along the line again the process of leadership the process of selection and first question is that there are already rumors murmurs in Iran that we need to change or revise the Islamic Constitution do you see any possibility that there is going to be a revision of these on the Constitution with diminished power for the supreme leader and the reason why I asked that is that one fundamental difference between Iran of 1988-89 and Iran of 2009 is that the institutions of Islamic Republic are much more powerful and can play a much more important role in the leadership so do you see that possibility secondly if there is a constitutional assembly to revise parts of the Constitution do you see any possibility as a compromise between different factions to do what the late Archana Rafsanjani wanted to do and that is to put a term of 10 years for the leadership and not renewable his logic was that if they do that then we are not going to move toward authoritarianism or giving too much power to the supreme leader what do you think about those possibilities you know I think it's certainly possible to Constitution was redone to largely to accommodate Ayatollah rafsanjani in 1989 it eliminated the post of Prime Minister it created the pote it made the president the most important executive authority in Iran's so depending on who the characters are at the time that hominid dies it's possible to have a new constitution tailored for them I mean when the jcpoa was still alive I still had some optimism frankly did you it's yeah I had I had real optimism that you know that rouhani might take the job and that we would see actually him allowing the elected institutions directly elected institutions in Iran to take much more power and authority and and this is what most Iranians want both inside the country and outside the country so if if in the future we see a system that reflects popular opinion we would have either a term limit on the Supreme Leader or we would have the Supreme Leader in a much more ceremonial role and the president be a much more important figure than then the president is now it's just that when Iran is under threat when you have a President of the United States tweeting that he's going to obliterate Iran this is not the moment when you're going to weaken the institutions that you have you're not going to weaken the institution of the supreme leader who is after all the commander-in-chief of the armed forces very closely tied to the the IRGC in particular and so I'm afraid Donald Trump has helped put off the possibility for this kind of political reform and in Iran for a while a lot is going to depend on whether Donald Trump is reelected in terms of the political evolution in a lot of countries because the United States used to stand for a democracy promotion not you know sometimes at the point of a bayonet which wasn't always effective but but at least rhetorically used to stand for democracy we haven't seen that so I think the role of the United States the condition of the region I mean what happens in Saudi Arabia what happens in the Arab monarchies around Iran will also have an impact on on which way Iran goes a lot of people don't understand how how Iranian how susceptible Iranian officials are to public opinion yes it's an authoritarian regime but they are very cognizant of how people are feeling and expressing themselves just today there's a story about women increasingly not wearing the hijab anyone for example which you know would have been an athame a few years ago but this is a trend and they can't stop it so I would love to see this but I think a lot is going to depend on whether Iran is under under siege economically whether it's physical existence is being challenged by the United States and by its neighbors brother Abbas you quoted somebody this has been the most interesting part of what of your piece about Iraq an unidentified someone he says if in fact Sistani dies first they may have to gather our belongings and relocate from Raja what are you gonna go because my assumption is that you're talking about Iran so they either have to go to Lebanon in which case they have to meet Hezbollah or they have to go to Iran what or both I don't want you to identify this individual I can who is going to be in deep trouble but tell us don't you think there is a little bit of exaggeration about this comment up here or do you think it's realistic and no I think four and I mean that doesn't apply to everyone but it applies to certain people who are and well entrenched and to this school of Grand Ayatollah who and Grand Ayatollah Sistani yeah that's that's basically what the beauty of people speaking to you of the record I mean that's I wasn't much of a couple of times and I did speak with many people about this specifically but this is important because I think it is it really ties to what I just said earlier is that Grand Ayatollah Sistani is not just a grand merger there's not an important merger only but he's an umbrella under this umbrella a lot of people and a lot of issues and a lot of entities and that not just in the Shia themselves Grand Ayatollah Sistani spared more Sunni blood in Iraq in the worst years 2005 2006 2007 than anybody else did armies and civilians that that counts for him the Grand Ayatollah Sistani also hosted Christians hosted he invited everybody who is not even a Muslim to go to to najaf and to show that tolerance not just tolerance but genuinely actually he is there there are people who are non-muslims Iraqis who are IDT's who are hosted in Najaf and being spent on from the network of Grand Ayatollah Sistani also within that there are group of people who are what I call unarmed prophets those people who are not interested in violence but they are interested in ideas and they won't adjust to be the beacon of religious tolerance that it is let's remember that you know there are right now a lot of people who are looking for a space to teach and to study and to speak they got energy from Iran from other countries whether they are you know in the Gulf etc there isn't a spot on earth right now that has less censorship on religious talk or religious ideology already just teaching Vantage of not anywhere on the planet and this is very interesting if you think about it and it's all Sistani because he is not allowing anybody to persecute anyone on the basis of their religious even if if you are speaking against this tiny himself so that's very important the gentleman is right there are certain people who don't have because they are well-known and to their you know with their names and their their activities that and the number of death threats they receive because of promoting that school of tolerance that school of interfaith that's cool of non-violence and for them it again is what I said if Sistani goes out of the scene right now there is nobody who can have a similar umbrella for these people to feel safe and feel in in in a in the right place where do they go I think their plan B is is very hard so what they are doing their plan B is to pray that Sistani will stay as long as possible until things get better or the other scenario which is basically you know let Iran have the weakness before Iraq let me make a proposition and then please both of you respond to it my own feeling is the succession process in Iran will have very little impact on Iran and it is the other way around now and the reason why I say that and I want you to challenge this proposition the reason is because warm right now is being supported by government the resources they have is not comparable to the resources Naja has more importantly Iran today for the first time has a constituency within Iraq that it has never had not during the show not during the iran-iraq war not during the Saddam Hussein and therefore regardless of who is there Iraq is gonna have very little impact on the succession process in Iran it's the other way around whether Ayatollah I mean I told a hominid dies first or Sistani die because I'm looking at this from an institution or phone interview and everything is about resources the resources available to naija you cannot compare it to the resources available to mash hat right now and boom tell me why I'm wrong both of you please let me just clarify one thing we did not argue in the paper that Iraq will play a role and to the deciding who would succeed grand ayatollah khamenei first that's not on the agenda of Najaf they are not interested in appointing a Supreme Leader for Iran and also because it's a who dies first it's going to be it matters on the balance of power between the two countries but it is not and terms of the who gets to be the successor and both ways in my opinion and and here is what my rationale is first of all as I said Najaf is not putting it on its agenda to micromanage the Iranian succession that's one second Iran's succession is a very strict clear constitutional process that it has institutions that are in charge of this it's very hard to come from outside and then do that the Iranians themselves are very protective of their own sort of internal affairs and they'd rather do it themselves that's one thing and on edge of the other way as nigev is not an institution there is no position to appoint anyone to what the the position of Grand Ayatollah Sistani is a personal position or a personal relation between him and every single person and the hundreds of millions who are following him okay that is basically it ie and Najaf is an aggregation or an aggregate sum of all of these personal relations there aren't there is no white smoke there is no Council of Cardinals there is no no a Council of experts nothing of that nation nature however there is some influence of the people who are in the inner circle of the in a sense that the the criteria basically is this to be the highest merger is to criteria really it's the most knowledgeable and the most pious every single Shia is supposed to have to discern in any which way he has to say who is the most knowledgeable who is the most biased now if you want to know that the best you don't just go and meet them or interview them you ask around and then the people who are in a position to tell the rest of the lay people who are the who is the most knowledgeable Muslim are the second-tier a fuel of the the ayatollahs who are around Limor yes so there is a room for these people and to inform the Shia as to who is the eligible successor however there is no binding opinion or fatwa that says follow this person and that's why it takes sometimes sometime because always it's like two three four people who are competing for that not competing actively between them but people who are most likely to be followed that is the case so Iran cannot just go to the Shia and tell them follow this person it is really a process that goes naturally and it's from bottom and that is why Iran will have very limited they will try to maybe sort of support certain people by giving them more media coverage having you know more but that is not going to be decisive because it is a personal relation between the Mirjana and every single Shia lay person and his Marja has read as I said the lump sum the aggregation of all of these personal one-on-one areas we have about six more minutes please answer the question and then I'm gonna go to briefly I mean I thought I had two Ayatollah Sistani in the way did try to put his thumb on the scale when when he gave an audience to Hassan rouhani and javad zarif I mean he didn't do this for a muddy Nejad who would have dearly loved to have had an audience and you blame him and of course he had very good reasons to given the complexity and the importance of iran/iraq relations especially now I also gave them an earful of what they are doing so it wasn't really much of a you know favoritism it was a mix of all it was an endorsement yeah Hassan Rowhani so it's it's it's a card that he could use you know if for some reason you know Ibrahim rice he is knocked out people decide he's just too unpopular you know it's it's it's another feather in rouhani's cap and it's another way that he can say that he represents the system writ large that he's not a reformist or a liberal or you know a moderate but but someone who represents the Islamic Republic as as a whole Mohammed you know I'm going to go off the script and then you can go off if you want but let me just let me just say a couple of things I don't know to what extent having all the resources that you're saying Iran has at its disposal can change things on the ground in nature right now look at how many he has all this money Petro dollars and another duty forces and yet compared to Sistani I don't know when it comes to followers and and soft power I don't know where harmony stands that that's one thing and what you mentioned is interesting that rouhani recently had a meeting with with Sistani and one of the stories that came out of the meeting was the fact that if that's true is that Sistani did not ask rouhani to convey his regards to harmony so I don't know to what extent this is true but I am yet to see a correspondence between harmony and and and and Sistani what I found was a letter that harmony sent to synonymous Sistani was in UK asking for medical treatment in two thousand four or five four years and and Khamenei addressed Sistani as Ayatollah not Grand Ayatollah and I could not find a respond to that letter from Sistani and where harmony was sick avoid back go assistance sent a representative to to visit how many in the hospital so it we don't really see a lot of I guess exchanges between the two I think that is important because there is a sphere in Iran on the part of the leadership that home could become like Nazareth again or could become a political again and some of the most outspoken the dissident voices that we see from come come out of Iran are actually coming from bomb so and how many has made a speech thing a white back ago that we need to root root out this a political view of Islam so there's this fear that that the clerical establishment at home could go back and become what it was they were or like the Orthodox it was and how many himself was actually an aberration when he rose in in in in the 60s so that is one thing the second thing is yeah that basically corn we should not treat home as as as as a as a monolith there are all the resources and money that they're sending into home and more importantly controlling the city through this special court of the clergy and IRGC and yet the city is producing a lot of dissident voices yes go ahead come in 2008 and I went to CEO Shara Stoney Sistani son-in-law who runs the schools and and libraries of Sistani income and it's a huge complex I mean I think it you know with more students and so and so I don't know what the status of of Shara stony and and those endowments are now but presumably they what happens to them when Sistani does do they remain as important or or do they weaken let me just make one point I'm not talking about home alone home doesn't have the resources I agree with you that is we do have dissent in home but they are being managed and when it comes to the collective interest of the clerics we have seen it over and over again that they unify what I am talking about is the resources of the Islamic Republic the government of the Islamic Republic that is what I'm talking about the fact that they have thousands of if not hundreds of thousands of supporters who are armed they're gonna play a role in the leadership whether you like it or not why is it why is it that dr. Hardin quotes somebody but doesn't mention the name that is all we need to know that is power with that said I'm going to open it to the audience and I have a rule the rule is that please ask questions with a question mark at the end please and introduce yourself and I'm gonna start with the gentleman right here please can I have the microphone for for the gentleman I'm a Peterffy an Intel analyst and a former diplomat I gotta believe there's a lot of ayatollahs kissing up now and I'm wondering to what extent there is at Apollo a touched one a a chosen son in both of these cases and does that person have no automatically huge advantage or can the people around the march of people in the Assembly of Experts blow off the suggestion of the current office holders excellent question mark it man on Iran yes absolutely I mean you know everyone thought that I told a month Azaria was going to succeed Khomeini and then the last minute he decided to dismiss him and and you know there was a there was a scramble at the end and your power I mean I'm sure they have identified people that they would like but they have their their finger in the wind you know and depending on the the circumstances of the time and how much under threat Iran is how comfortable people are you know those choices can can change in the service of sort of the survival of the regime that's why you know we we put everybody puts out these lists but you know they're theoretical because this can always happen and people can pass from the scene clearly there can be new names that come up Iran has parliamentary elections next year it has presidential elections the following year rouhani won't be there anymore who will be the new names that will come forward so yeah absolutely in terms of budget I think I've already explained that it's a very different process in general the nature of school that is a way it's separate from the state so there is no position to throw your hat in the ring for so to speak and also the tradition of mahjongg is that a Grand Ayatollah would discredit himself if he pushes himself you know before the merger as dead and says I want to be the next person or even his close people if they start talking about this it's not considered to be within the really the tradition of what is the proper thing to do so they leave it until it happens and even you know everybody knows there are a few names for example you know have someone like Sheikh has happened failure one of who is students he's as he's and I mention his name he is a wonderful scholar he has a lot of knowledge he has you know also the poor analogy the very liked someone like say Mohammad Sayeed Hakim he's an fellows from an Afghani descent but she's been in Iraq for for very long time there is a homicide that Hakim is a grandson of the great Marshall Hakim who died in 1970 he is an Iraqi he has you know a lot of knowledge and and and expertise and then also there is another tier that comes after them and there are some people the only thing is that it's a kiss of death for your mirja if you announce it yourself especially prematurely before the time they always want to be pointed at as the next merger rather than saying I am here you know the only thing they do to direct people towards them is when they publish their what they call it a resulallah Melia their their collection of fatwas and they put it there that is to say I am a now a merger but the highest merger as they leave it to the people and to the whole process to play itself out rather than just intercepted in a time where it could really kill their possibilities the gentlemen who said our three candidates didn't identify them for two reasons number one is that these names change but more importantly if they identify somebody he is going to be targeted and they don't want to do that that's rule number one in Iranian politics because it's so factionalized there are so many people who trying to undermine you the gentleman right here please right there an advisor on Middle East business I have a question for the panelists what makes Sistani so skilled at politics I mean he's a theologian but as I listened to you he seems to be very sharp politically well a couple of things one of them is that being a theologian is not necessarily preclude someone from Pingala I mean the Shia by the way one of the pillars of Shia theology is the political element in them on the political philosophy the Shia are the only Muslims who study politics and or theology not under jurisprudence so to become a theologian you have to be by definition a political philosopher that's one second Grand Ayatollah Sistani has a great support team his son Mohammad Reza Sistani who runs the office there is one of the sharpest people I've ever met and spoke with when it comes to knowledge about the Iraqi situation and I think what made him also successful he and his is that they did not micromanage the Iraqi issues they are very selective and when they interfere and why they interfere and every time they threw a card it was a winning card unlike others who want to rush fully kind of just interfere in every single thing and then people get tired and get fatigued about their their work and their interference and meddling and then it demystifies there all of the merger that's kind of you know probably how I would put it Sistani would never allow his merger a and his position to be demystified by and interfering in the mundane and the daily and that what makes him above the fray and makes his interventions always on in the big picture and the issues that matter and they are consequential and successfully David Leyland at the time of the succession in Iran what effect will the then relationship between the Iran the United States perhaps Israel on that you know it's it's the the threat perceptions in Iran are crucial they are crucial in determining who runs for elected office and wins and they're they're even more crucial I think in in the case of what happens to the supreme leader in his office one had hoped that Iran would be feeling less threatened and so would have a little bit more freedom in terms of how that office would be defined but my concern is that Iran is moving in an even more authoritarian direction now in many ways because of the what's happened to the nuclear agreement and the hostility that's being expressed by the United States toward Iran so we live in a completely different environment compared to 1989 after they run Iraq war there was this understanding in in Iran that if they reduce some of their adventurous policies in the region if they God pushed the leftist out of the political scene the US would be receptive and if you remember in 1990 when Georgia is overt HW Bush came to power he had this famous speech goodwill baguettes goodwill and so there was this view that if Iran could move towards the United States things would get better but now as Barbara said it's completely different they feel they have exhausted those opportunities for 30 years for a variety of reasons either because the US was not ready for in the Iranian part because of factional issues they could not come to an agreement the u.s. Iranian rakesh maan is not going to happen you know we're here I guess Chinese refers to cream later I suppose right there we and then this lady right there Jeff's DC formerly the State Department and the previous administration and since that consultant in the region including with a jcpoa some incredible insights you've been pointing out about each of these grand ayatollahs will never forget Sistani holding malicious and check it several key points and comedy has done the same thing in his own way with hardliners at various times including a lot more recently than a lot of us care to always acknowledge so what about the elephant in the room the current crisis what's gonna happen decisively were you were just pointing out the sort of fears we all have but are we as far away from a deal is as conventional wisdom suggests in the sense that the Iranians held to this deal a lot longer than people expected far longer the debate is over about who wanted this more going back to the original negotiations long over Trump is the kind of guy who just dressed up a trade deal with slightly different wording and has been selling it left and right cannot the Europeans mogherini successor the Swiss the bahraini 's get people back to the table quietly get created with some of the substance and get to a new deal let's start Barbara nobody but you any of you oh yeah I think about this you know 24/7 the problem the problem is that the Trump administration as currently constituted doesn't show any signs of wanting a true New Deal it's all about maximum pressure it's all about weakening Iran that seems to be everything there if you look at the leaked cables of circum Derek the British former British ambassador here he wrote back that you know Trump hated the jcpoa because it was Obama's deal full stop never thought about the day after and and really isn't thinking about it now so I remain pessimistic I think that the Iranians still in a way are holding out until our next elections hoping that a Democrat will win and that they can then resume negotiations without losing face make some cosmetic changes here there to the jcpoa and somehow return to it if it's Trump again they're going to have to deal with him but it's not something that they really want to have to face right now silver lining in the current crisis so if you go back to a few years ago the jcpoa created a lot of insecurity inside iran because many view this as basically a reward from the united states to empower certain groups certain factions than to certain individuals in Iran and that made the IRGC under the supreme leader others very very nervous I think there was the reason that right after the deal was signed the IRGC test-fired ballistic missiles with Hebrew on it so precisely because they wanted to week to weaken the deal right but what happened in the past year or so has reduced some of those anxieties and security concerns that the IRGC and other had that now they feel that because of what they did in resisting us aggression and us confrontational approach towards Iran that they have been able to reframe them themselves to the Iranian population as they were the ones who protected the country and in the end so at this point as rouhani and Zarif and others seem to have been a lot discredited that domestically I think there might be a possibility for some negotiations behind the scene but again that not necessarily for for a major deal but to the extent that the United States would remove some of the secondary sang again against Iran so the deal can survive I think the the preference that Iranian conservative leadership has had all along is a very weak jcpoa and I think at this point there seems to be a possibility for that in a way yes of course the the victim could be the Iranian population but as I said there is a silver lining in all of this may I just add something to the question in u.s. I think there are three decisive moments in the history of the Islamic Republic one was then I told our cars a machete had my very issue the fatwa against me like a party back in 1980 the second one was the June apprising the the green movement and the third one is America's getting out of the nuclear deal there could be negotiations I agree from Mohammed I am much more optimistic than Barbara is and I hope there is negotiation I've been pushing for it but the problem I have is that because US unilaterally got out of the nuclear deal there is an element of mistrust that I sense not only within the leadership in Iran amongst the population at large and that is going to be the major obstacle for any meaningful negotiation that is the problem that has to be addressed the lady right there please thank you very much a very specific question do you distinguish between Marja yet which is more of a religious of following and just having a follower follower within the not just the Shiite community but also in the Islamic community which means Sistani and and hominid because it seems to me that you you kind of go from one to the other you compare the merits of one to the other versus the followership of one to the other whereas I think from a my understanding there is a big difference into in the in the impact that either of them can have depending on the kind of followers that they have there are a couple of things that that probably to unpack your question the role the position itself when it comes to the Iranian supreme leader he it is a constitutional office so he is by the legal and constitutional and the political framework of Iranian politics he is the supreme leader for every Iranian Muslim non-muslim Shias can I just clarify something yes because you could have an Iranian whose major is Sistani and you could have you know a lot of CI Iraqis that follow not just hominy but other much as not as high as that and I think to split them between Iraqis and and Iranians and just say that's how they are gonna follow doesn't give the extent of the power that they may have and the power can go way beyond just even these two countries depending on on the followers I mean again I mentioned earlier that this the role of the merger as a merger not as a constitutional office as the supreme leader that is the it goes from the layperson from the individual to the merger the decision is my decision as a lay Shia not not an Ayatollah myself while and in the Iranian case people don't choose who the Supreme Leader is you know it is chosen for them yes there is a mechanism and there is an indirect election on all of that but that's not a choice if a follower of Sistani is 100 percent a choice that he would follow cyst on e or he would follow any other merger in Iran or in in Iraq that is that is one case but the there is more to it if you were to compare oranges and oranges where they're all off sate Sistani as the highest authority in Iraq when it comes to the spirituality and quite frankly the political clout on impact versus harmony is sustained he sees himself as the father figure of all of the Iraqis that his operation is not imposed on others in other words when a an Iraqi non Shia be it a Muslim or non-muslim goes to Sistani or adheres to sustain his call for whatever he calls that's voluntary there is in other words there is no consequence if he chooses to or if he doesn't choose there are no characteristics it's personal choice someone think that this is the right thing to do or the beneficial thing to do even but it is not what Sistani will reward them or will punish them if they do or they don't in the case of the Supreme Leader of Iran he is the supreme leader he is the the final arbiter of Iranian politics you follow him or else and that is the normal of you know after all it goes back to the definition of the state that's the monopoly – you know for for the legitimate use of force and that is you know whether he does it as a president whether he does it as a king or whether he does it as a supreme leader it is the same framework so the element of choice in Iran is different than the element of choice in an Iraq it is absolutely personal and that's why when you see a Sunni for example goes and visit system or when you see even and you know not Muslims go there and visit Sistani all the time they visit them not because they have any obligation or they have any political channel that will take them to his office they go there because they see that this person has a value to provide for Iraq the Iraqi favourite way of calling Sistani they call him the safety valve valve of Iraq in other words you know without him you're a coup explode because of so many pressures and that is his position and that was not just taken I mean there are so many people before him they did not gain that wide sort of impact and clout among non Shia Iraqis this position has been earned by Sistani because again what he did and because of the circumstances you know had probably Grand Ayatollah who is being presiding over you know the emerging after 2003 I would have expected in fact probably he would be even higher than Sistani and in his in his position but you know this is it's it's a combination of things but John we have ten minutes and I want to start a rapid question and rapid answers so no no it's not your turn please this gentleman right yeah muhammad baba Hadean recent master public policy graduate have your third yeah my question is what kind of influence will the United States have on Iraq's selection of following the successorship of Ayatollah Sistani none whatsoever short and brief that was perfect answer the lady right here please thank you so much and thank you for this great panel thank you dr. Malone it's honor to have you in Washington I have a quick question you mentioned that I told Sistani did not accept Ahmadinejad did they crack down on 2008 election had anything to do with that because Ayatollah Sistani represents peace and at the time when Ahmadinejad went to visit him there was a huge demonstrations in Iran after the green movement and he was not very happy with the way they were cracking down on the students thank you I mean regarding the crackdown no and I wasn't doing right I don't know actually I wasn't the one who said that maybe you were yeah Ahmadinejad clearly was not the sort of figure that Sistani would approve of and I'm sure Abbas would agree that that you know he would not want to be seen giving an audience to someone who had been responsible for this sort of crackdown on on students and others within Iran but just in general I mean you know Medina shod denied the Holocaust he said horrible things about many different people in many different countries he's just the antithesis of Sistani in my mind he had a sort of crackpot Shiism you remember he used to go to this jump cut on and call for the Mahdi to come and so his his own knowledge of Shia Islam was a little bit bizarre shall we say so I just can't see the two of them in the same room the reason the u.s. invaded Iraq in 2003 was to prevent the return of the Hidden Imam he said he had evidence forget how crazy he was I think what what makes the decision for Grand Ayatollah Sistani to meet or not to meet somebody is more of a complex calculation it's the timing why this person is coming not just who this person is and there are certain times were Grand Ayatollah Sistani doesn't meet even with Iraqi officials I mean the prime minister of Iraq could not get audience with one title less than a couple of them could not and Americans will never have that because it is you know this is not just the British when you know they were in occupying Iraq they never had audience with Grand Ayatollah Carlos Lee or even with others that is you know kind of really Grand Ayatollah Sistani when it comes to foreign diplomats or foreign officials he would meet with the the representative of the Secretary General of the UN would he met with the Secretary General himself ban ki-moon but foreign leaders he would not do that because first there is nothing to discuss with done and in that sense he doesn't want to sort of pre-empting the government these are people who are dealing with the Iraqi government and Grand Ayatollah and he wants to support the government to do this if everybody goes to Sistani then the government will be under my and Grand Ayatollah Sistani wouldn't want that to happen so it's his support today and I think one reason why he didn't meet with Iranian officials of during those times is because there was an election that was going on he didn't want to show that you know he was interested and you know Iranian meddling in Iraq in a time of election so sometimes it's just really more calculations that are based on the timing and also several other issues whether there is an interest or not for everybody to make that audience to ask the question I'm going to answer it just want to tell you something that I learned from Northern another food famous Iranian now modern rerunning import who met artola hominid Ayatollah Khomeini back in 1963 when he became famous he said he went to see him but with general Alanna and they were having a discussion and then I did end of the discussion I told her how many turned to him and to Jalal Allah and he said the problem with you intellectuals is that you only speak one language and you do not look at the audience you were giving your talk to we mullahs learn how to talk to intellectuals to ordinary people and to the people we really want to follow us the point is that these i2 laws are extremely sophisticated and for one as somebody who's been watching them I don't trust anything that is said about the meetings there had been individuals because there is no recording and people come out and say anything they want to get credit so we have to be very careful when we hear that for example our Tala ceased on e didn't say hello to I to Allah who me me try to low hominid who knows they were only four people in the meetings and they haven't said a word now this lady right there please Emira asthma and I come from Lebanon I'm a senior project manager of Friedrich Naumann foundation Beirut just I have like two questions like quickly without going through the consequences and effects but do you think the economic situation of Iran now might lead to some point to a military coup especially during Ahmadinejad period he basically the president strengthened the IR s e-g officers and he gave them a lot of like privileges and with the thing of privatization and telecom and and so on and the second question we talked about like the succession and the if there will be effect of like success succession and Iran on Iraq but what about the succession also in Lebanon and on Hezbollah and who's gonna come after Hassan Nasrallah so these aren't major questions please quickly a coup you answer I don't think you know a coup is is possible if Iran is an extreme you know situation and the UN there's a war or something like that but the IRGC prefers to rule from behind the scenes not not to occupy that that position they are after all the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps so it wouldn't look good in terms of Lebanon you probably know better you know what happens after Hassan Nasrallah an interesting question is would son nasrallah have to show allegiance to the next Supreme Leader of Iran in the way that he shows allegiance to hum an a I would assume so but that will be in a very interesting moment in Lebanon because Hezbollah may may have some different options many questions please answer the questions quickly and please dance they're never going to tie RS Ali from Iran international TV Iran is a Shiite majority country also easy rock and there are other religious minorities within the both both country barbara also mentioned that women in Iran has started showing their discontent and they're not wearing hijab she's one of the pillars of the Shiite religion belief so my question is what do you think their role of the religious minorities and women are in terms of determining the next successor at least the policies of the next successors in both countries thank you very thank you Barbara you know III think Iranian society has been liberalizing constantly and that it's now one of them were secular societies and in the Middle East and frankly the religious minorities are probably more attached to their religion and a lot of the majority Shia because it's not being shoved down their throats in the same way that it is on the majority so again in India in the optimum situation a big influence but let's hope here on is not at war a gentleman back there and then your turn yes so that's the result of rushing how the political posturing and behavior of rather misleading behavior of US leadership can affect the process of leadership successions for the Iranians and Shias launched that hostility from the United States does not have a good impact but I don't think the u.s. gets gets a major vote in this yeah I can assure mohammed ur rasoolallah why never said I was born in Tehran there is one question the question is this with the event that is unfolding in Islamic Republic of Iran and Iraq and everywhere else there is a harbinger of the coming of the Pope of the fears now when it's gonna happen how is it going to happen this is a new stuff that you're going to hear this first time from me is happening because there is a leader needed to defend the right of those people that the writers trampled over by their own countries the other countries and everywhere else and all so this is the anniversary of the shoot-down of a plane that was carrying 290 passengers Iranian passenger jet was shot down and Admiral Rogers or captain Roger got a medal for doing that and the 35 sailors all of them got medals an American ever recognized such a wrong thing that they have done thank you anybody wants to answer the possibility of a ship oh well I have something it's like a project about thinking about no no no no and I am I have four lectures that I have written I wish I have something in mind the Grand Ayatollah Sistani would be the closest to that but I don't think she a set up of you know and historically and going forward it's something that would copy the you know the experiment of the or the experience of the of the Catholic Church we don't have that by design the she I would like that sort of wider menu of choices rather than having a hierarchical hierarchical system however I think what is needed is not that kind of hierarchy what is needed there's some kind of an institutional structure that will contain the current disarray especially when it comes to the people you mentioned those Shia and the periphery two-thirds of the Shia if not more of the Shia who have nothing to do with Iraq or Iran and their citizenship and their living conditions and they by design have to follow either Naja or or home and the question is what do you do with that that's again as Barbara mentioned it's maybe about for another day but I've been thinking about it for a long time and it's it has to be needed if we were to really rectify what goes on never gonna have it it's because she writes our minority and when you're a minority if you centralized Authority it's the easiest way for the majority to destroy incorrect please the last question of the day and I think it's a good thank you so much dr. Madani Barbara bass Mohammed my question is about moqtada solder it seemed you didn't cover something about moqtada al-sadr also he has won a major voting in Iraq and he is a powerful figure I'm wondering if that going to be as a as a Magi a reference or just moqtada started and and the curious question what sort of mechanism successor in Iraq or in Iran is there going to choose their nudists I know there's no democracy but I I'm just curious I would like to know how thank you experts that 86 clerics and they vote and that's the Supreme Leader but the choice will be made before behind the scenes very good yeah when it comes to sales most I just adore he is not one of the upper echelon of the mirja here he's at the ranks you know to be a merger you have to be from the top level scholars and the Shia Howser or the the seminary and what most of the soldier is he is a very important political leader who has a movement that has great impact and the politics of Iraq but he himself does not present himself as a credentialed Shia scholar for Marja a– so that's why his name doesn't come up when we talk about you know the the merger and all of the succession that is there there are layers and layers and layers before you get to levels of people who are vegetal Islam or little Islamic Muslim in as they say and that is a level of you know again nowhere near that you know you have to go through the H they had process and then after the HT had you have to go all the way up I mean it's they did you know if you are to give it in some terms that people would understand they say from every thousand cadets they go to the academic military there is one becomes a general you know from this year a kind of clergy probably for 10,000 you will get one who becomes a it's a lot to be a merger and that is how sort of difficult it is it takes a lot of persistence a lot of you know many many things that that have to be assembled together for the person to be there so moqtada stutter has an important role in Iraq a leading role in fact in Iraqi politics at this point but that's a different story the mirja is not just also for Iraq the merge is astana is followed by people and more than 130 countries and he has deputies on him as other people they follow him aside from his nationality aside from his you know his language his all of the other things it is really he is the person who spiritually is in a position to lead the Shia theologically and jurisprudentially as the most learned the most knowledgeable scholar among his peers thank you very much Atlantic Council and thank you very much Barbara Abbas and Mohammed and thank you folks you

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