Skip to main content

Rouhani’s Moderation Welcomed By Sistani, Iraqi Clerics in Najaf

After shunning the Mahmoud Ahmadinejad administration, Ayatollah Ali Sistani granted Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif a meeting, which has been distorted by Iran’s hard-line Arabic media.
Shi'ite pilgrims gather to mark the death anniversary of Imam Ali at his shrine in the holy city of Najaf, about 160 km (100 miles) south of Baghdad, July 30, 2013. Imam Ali, the son-in-law of Prophet Mohammad, was wounded in the head during a battle and died after two days in 661 AD in Najaf. REUTERS/Ahmad Mousa (IRAQ - Tags: RELIGION) - RTX124BT
Read in 

The victory of the moderate faction in the 2013 presidential elections in Iran has been welcomed by the Hawza of Najaf. The religious authorities as well as the instructors there had hoped that the radical policies of the preceding eight years would finally come to an end. The election results have already brought a reduction in tensions between Iranian government officials and the religious authorities in Najaf, who did not receive former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. They refused to grant him an appointment during either of his two trips to Iraq. In contrast, the current foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, visited all four grand ayatollahs in Najaf on Sept. 9, shortly after taking office, on his first trip to Iraq.

News reports on the interactions between Iran and the United States are being closely followed in the Hawza in the hope that violence in the region might be brought under control. Such changes in policy — interpreted by instructors and students at the Hawza as a sign that the Iranian government is moving toward moderation and away from radicalism — have been warmly welcomed. In the past, the Hawza had criticized some of the Iranian government's radical policies, and in retaliation, Al-Kawthar, the state-owned Arabic-language network, broadcast programs in which the institution and its religious leaders were themselves strongly criticized.

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 per year.