Top Shi’ite Cleric Told US to Back Sistani to Counter Iran

Prominent Cleric Urged Shi'ite Theocracy to 'Stand Up to Iran'

A new WikiLeaks release from 2008 quotes top Shi’ite cleric Sayyed Emad Klanter, a nephew of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, as saying that the ayatollah was growing frustrated by the lack of indirect consultation with US occupation forces.

Incredibly, Klanter claimed that Sistani was “alarmed” by the growing Iranian influence over Iraqi politics and said the US should support Sistani and the Najaf Marja’iyyah taking direct roles in the government as the only way to “stand up to Iran.”

Which is more than a little counterintuitive, as empowering Iraq’s Shi’ite clergy in the government seems far from a clear way counter a Shi’ite clergy dominated Iran. Klanter also pressed for the US to demand early elections.

In retrospect, Klanter’s comments seem to have had the exact opposite impact, as the election did indeed lead to a strongly pro-Iran government whose major blocs have pledged to empower Sistani and the Marja-iyyah to make binding edicts.

Yet the US envoy didn’t seem at all interested in questioning the narrative, rather focusing on Klanter’s comments about the “unsophisticated” Sadrist faction and Klanter’s prediction that if Sistani wasn’t hugely empowered Iran would “swallow us whole.”

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.