LEBANON UPDATE….Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who has been a moderating force in Iraqi politics for the past three years, has issued a statement demanding an end to hostilities in Lebanon:

“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.”

Juan Cole has a good post explaining some of the politics behind this, including a desire on Sistani’s part not to be outflanked by his fiery rival Muqtada al-Sadr, a rejection of Iranian-style governance, and an informal alliance with Lebanon’s moderate Amal party and its leader, Nabih Berri. Then he adds this:

What could he do if he were ignored? Sistani could call massive anti-US and anti-Israel demonstrations. Given Iraq’s profound political instability, this development could be extremely dangerous. US troops in Baghdad and elsewhere are planning offensives against Shiite paramilitary groups, so tensions are likely to rise in the Shiite areas anyway. But big demonstrations could easily boil over into actual attacks on US and British troops. Both depend heavily on fuel that is transported through the Shiite south. Were the Shiites actively to turn on the US for its wholehearted support of continued Israeli air raids, the US military could be cut off from fuel and supplies. The British only have around 8,000 troops in Iraq, and they would be in profound danger if Iraq’s Shiites became militantly anti-occupation.

Stay tuned. There is, essentially, no one left in the entire world that supports our position on Lebanon. Things could get even uglier than they already are very quickly.