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Shi’i division over the Iraqi state: decentralization and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq
journal contributionposted on 01.01.2020, 00:00 authored by Benjamin IsakhanBenjamin Isakhan, Peter Mulherin
© 2018, © 2018 British Society for Middle Eastern Studies. This article traces the evolving political platform of one of Iraq’s oldest and most powerful Shi’i political parties, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI). Drawing on an analysis of 15 years of primary materials produced by ISCI, it focuses principally on their promotion of decentralization as a path towards peace and stability in Iraq. However, the article also traces the origins of a deep schism that emerged within ISCI between the movement’s old guard who were beholden to the Iranian regime and their model of vilāyat-i faqīh, and the youth-led Iraqi nationalist faction who wanted to see the instalment of a civil government without religious oversight. The article demonstrates that this division is indicative of a theological debate between Shi’i religious scholars over differing interpretations of the role of Shi’ism in politics. The article concludes by arguing that understanding the extent to which such esoteric religious debates manifest themselves politically is crucial to interpreting divisions within Shi’ism not just in Iraq, but across the broader Middle East.