02138, May/June 2007
On the day I crossed the Iran-Iraq border in February 2004, you could get through immigration twice as fast if you were a Shiite zealot. Thousands of Iranian pilgrims were surging into Iraq to observe the anniversary of Imam Hussein’s martyrdom in Karbala. Saddam had barred them from Ashura for more than 25 years, but now the dictator was on the lam, and Iranian triumphalists flooded in to inaugurate a new period of Shiite dominance. On the Iranian side, I glommed onto a pilgrimage group and told the immigration officer I was Karbala-bound. He let me through without a hitch.