Via Meadia regulars know that we call out the New York Times from time to time for bad reportage and poor editorial judgment, but today the Times has a piece that reminds us of just how good this paper can be at its best.The piece is by Tim Arango, and it covers the developing struggle to succeed Grand Ayatolleh Ali al-Sistani, the most important religious figure in the Shiite world. Sistani, whose moderation and belief in democracy made him the most important single figure in Iraq during the American occupation, is now 83 years old and speculation is naturally turning to who will take his place.Arango describes the wealthy, time-serving cleric that Iran hopes to put in Sistani’s place. One key issue will be that Sistani, in common with most Shiites around the world, rejects the political theory behind the Iranian Revolution. For most Shiites, religious leaders should stay out of politics. Replacing an anti-Khomeini cleric like Sistani with a partisan of the Iranian revolution would be a huge victory for Iran — both because Iranian influence in Iraq could be expected to grow and because it is Iraq rather than Iran that most Shiites consider to be the spiritual and intellectual center of their faith.Read the whole thing; this is a solid piece of journalism that offers some vital insight into the future of Middle East politics.