Yet ironically, the regime may face its greatest threat not from within, but from outside the country. Ever since June’s contested election, observers have been keeping a close watch on Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani (who hails from Iran but resides in the holy city of Najaf, Iraq), considered the highest living authority in all of Shiite Islam. Sistani comes from the “quietist” tradition of Shiite theology, one that, unlike the Islamic Republic’s ruling doctrine of velayat-eh faqih, holds that clerics should abstain from becoming directly involved in politics. So far, he has refrained from condemning the regime’s actions. But his clout is so strong in the Shiite world that, were this to change, the Islamic Republic would arguably no longer face just a political crisis within Iran, but also a crisis of religious confidence among all Shiites.