Thursday, May 25, 2006

Sadr's growing power base

Dan Murphy has a must read in the Christian Science Monitor:
"The problem is primarily rooted in the way in which the militias have been incorporated into the police, but that's not the only problem," says John Pace, who was the head of the United Nation's human rights mission in Baghdad until his departure in February. "Iraq has a Ministry of Human Rights, but that's more or less just for decoration."

Since a Sadr loyalist was named health minister last year, longtime ministry employees say members of his movement have been packed into the Health Ministry's Facility Protection Service (FPS). Doctors and nurses in Baghdad hospitals complain - always asking that their names not be used - that administrative posts have gone to unqualified members of his movement.

These problems were evident, and widely reported on, before the new cabinet was announced last weekend. But Sadr kept control of the ministry.

That makes sense in the parliamentary calculus that required Maliki to build as large a coalition as possible, but would appear to make meeting his objectives of disarming militias and ending corruption that much harder. The Sadr movement also won the agriculture, transport, and education ministries. The outgoing SCIRI interior minister was given the coveted Ministry of Finance.

Those who control the Health Ministry don't try to hide where their ultimate loyalties lie. One of the first things visitors now see at the main ministry building is a 12-foot-high billboard of Sadr and his father, Ayatollah Mohammed Sadek al-Sadr, a cleric killed by Saddam Hussein's regime. There are dozens of smaller posters of the duo around the compound - most bearing the elder Sadr's famous anti-American slogans.


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