Iraq's top Shiite cleric demanded an immediate cease-fire in Lebanon, warning Sunday that the Muslim world will ``not forgive'' nations that stand in the way of stopping the fighting.
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani issued the call following the Israeli airstrike that killed at least 56 Lebanese, mostly women and children, in the village of Qana. It was the deadliest attack in nearly three weeks of fighting.
``Islamic nations will not forgive the entities that hinder a cease-fire,'' al-Sistani said in a clear reference to the United States.
``It is not possible to stand helpless in front of this Israeli aggression on Lebanon,'' he added. ``If an immediate cease-fire in this Israeli aggression is not imposed, dire consequences will befall the region.''
The thing is, given the more or less rate stable rate of missile fire from Lebanon, the Israelis don't stand any chance of "winning" this war, since disarming Hezbollah is a linchpin of their self-defined victory. Without a peace, no peacekeeping force will insert that has any teeth, and without that peacekeeping force, even the paltry few miles the Israelis want as a buffer wont remain demilitarized.
Will Israel feel compelled to accede to Ayatollah Sistani's demands? Without extreme American pressure, I doubt it, since the Israelis hardly need to keep the Shiites happy. So what happens if there isn't an "immediate cease-fire?" With one speech, the most powerful man in Iraq could turn the Shia majority decisively against the American occupation. What if even 1% of Iraqi Shiites turn violent? We could see not only a Sunni insurgency, but a Shiite insurgency to match. That, combined with the current civil war and the increasing violence on the Iraqi-Turkish border, would be the absolute worst case for Iraq. I opposed the war based on exactly these possibilities, but I never thought we'd be so unlucky to see all of them.