The article quotes Juan Cole, the University of Michigan prof and a leader of MESA Nostra, or the Saidist intellectual straitjacket that strangles free inquiry about Middle East issues in American universities:
Even if the clerics stay out of politics, Iraq may be on the way to a system where religion and religious laws play a bigger role than U.S. policymakers anticipate, possibly thwarting cherished American goals such as broadening women's rights and creating a freewheeling capitalist economy. "The main goal in political Islam hasn't been clerical rule. It has been the replacement of civil law with Shariah, or Islamic canon law. And that is where Iraq is headed," says Juan Cole, professor of modern Middle Eastern history at the University of Michigan. "The only question is how wide-ranging the substitution will be."
This is a distinction without a difference. If Sharia rules Iraq, it doesn't matter if Sistani or any other cleric actually has the title of head of state or not. The effect will be the same. Witness the article's conclusion:
The southern city of Basra, once relatively secular, has come to look a lot like Iran: Women are afraid to go outdoors without headscarves for fear of reprisals from the SCIRI-affiliated Badr brigades, as well as other toughs associated with the firebrand cleric Moqtada al Sadr. For ordinary Iraqis, who rules the streets may for years be more important than what ends up in the constitution.