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The Shiite clergy in Iraq is commonly described by Western analysts in one of two ways: as quietist and uninterested in politics or, alternatively, as aspiring to the political awakening of a “Shiite Crescent” throughout the broader Middle East. Neither of these characterizations is correct. While the Iraqi clergy has no intention of following the Khomenist model of direct involvement in governance, it is nevertheless unwilling to abdicate all authority related to political matters. Iraq’s Shiite clergy seeks to exercise power over Iraqi politics from outside the system to both exercise a veto power above the law of the land and to preserve its claim to a pan-Shia system that transcends the borders of modern states. This stance makes the Iraqi Shiite clergy, paradoxically, both deeply invested in the current state system and a non-state player par excellence.