Foud Ajami, of Johns Hopkins, writes a lovely paean to the opportunity now handed the Iraqis. Read the whole thing, but these two paragraphs in the center, are critical: "Iraqs Shiite majority now faces a great historical test. The Shiites can make Iraq or they can break it. Their history has been a sorrowful alternation between fear and quietism, and doomed rebellions. They have now been delivered from this cycle of history: One of their own, Prime Minister Allawi--by the appearance of things a skilled political operative--is now at the commanding heights of political power. And a revered figure from their ranks, Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, exercises a subtle influence over the course of the countrys political life.
This new Shiite liberty has been an American gift. The Shiites neednt be--and arent--Americas proxies in Iraq. But a measure of Americas success in Iraq--a measure of this wars vindication in the scales of history--will rest on the ability of the Shiite center to hold, and on the willingness of Shiite secularists who honor the separation of religion and politics to look across the border, to that Shiite republic in Iran, and recognize the failure of religious zeal--and of religious pretension--to create a tolerable society that works. In the preceding quarter-century, the authoritarian orders in the Arab world held up the Shiite bogeyman as a specter of the darkness that would descend on the Persian Gulf if their writ was questioned, and if the Pax Americana did not come to their rescue. In Iraq, Shiism will be given the chance at a new history."