Najaf, Qom, Khamene'i
Sorry not much posting lately. I've been glued to the phones, as they say. Interestingly enough, Ken Pollack disagrees with the whole idea (often cited by me and god knows how many others) that the Tehran leadership fears the emergence of the hawza
in an-Najaf (because they oppose the whole "rule of clerics" thing). Well, "disagrees" might be putting it lightly. In his words: "bullshit!" Hm... Pollack felt pretty strongly that, if anything, Khamene'i would love (!!) to see an Iraqi alternative to the clergy in Qom, which does nothing but bash the Supreme Leader all the time for his lack of credentials. That seems plausible. Also said he's only heard the "fear of Najaf" theory floated in the United States—never in Iran or Iraq. (Admittedly, though, he doesn't speak Farsi or Arabic, so...)
However, I should add a partial dissenting view—and since we're hiding bravely behind authorities on Iran here, let me just say that I heard this from Ray Takeyh
a while back. What Khamene'i and the rest of the Tehran regime might be concerned about is dissident Iranian clerics migrating to Iraq as a means of protest. So the Najaf school might be a threat not in terms of formulating an alternative to the Iranian velayat al-faqih
(rule of ayatollahs) doctine, but rather as a symbol of resistance to the Tehran regime. Who knows.
Anyways, interesting interviews. Many thanks to praktike and those who emailed questions. I'll try to get them up as soon as possible.