Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Coup de Sadr?

This report is all over the papers today. There were rumors that something was afoot when Hakim met with Bush and the Sunni delegate was asked to report to the White House several weeks earlier than anticipated.

Azzaman has learned that Iraqi factions would like to enter into a new coalition that will force Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki introduce a major cabinet reshuffle.

Major Kurdish, Shiites and Sunni factions would like to come together to exclude the powerful parliamentary block of the radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr on whose support the current government relies in order to survive.

The move, the analysts say, will be announced shortly after U.S. President George Bush makes his new Iraq policy public.

But the analysts said excluding any major faction through the formation of new alliances is bound to even further exacerbate conditions in the violence-torn country.
The New York Times:
The talks are taking place among the two main Kurdish groups, the most influential Sunni Arab party and an Iranian-backed Shiite party that has long sought to lead the government. They have invited Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki to join them. But Mr. Maliki, a conservative Shiite who has close ties to Mr. Sadr, has held back for fear that the parties might be seeking to oust him, a Shiite legislator close to Mr. Maliki said.

Officials involved in the talks say their aim is not to undermine Mr. Maliki, but to isolate Mr. Sadr as well as firebrand Sunni Arab politicians inside the government. Mr. Sadr controls a militia with an estimated 60,000 fighters that has rebelled twice against the American military and is accused of widening the sectarian war with reprisal killings of Sunni Arabs.

The Americans, frustrated with Mr. Maliki’s political dependence on Mr. Sadr, appear to be working hard to help build the new coalition. President Bush met last week in the White House with Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of the Iranian-backed Shiite party, and is to meet on Tuesday with Tariq al-Hashemi, leader of the Sunni Arab party. In late November, Mr. Bush and his top aides met with leaders from Sunni countries in the Middle East to urge them to press moderate Sunni Arab Iraqis to support Mr. Maliki.

The White House visits by Mr. Hakim and Mr. Hashemi are directly related to their effort to form a new alliance, a senior Iraqi official said.
The Los Angeles Times:
BAGHDAD — A group of prominent politicians made up of Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds said Monday that it was seeking to form an alliance that could shift Iraq's balance of power and end months of political inaction.

Representatives of anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada Sadr were not invited to join the coalition, said Iraqi Islamic Party member Ammar Wajeeh — a sign that the group may want to politically isolate the powerful Shiite preacher. Sadr's Al Mahdi militia has been accused of killing hundreds of Sunni Arab Muslims in recent months.
I think we can now view the Hadley memo in clear light. First, it was short and hardly sage policy analysis. It was manufactured for public consumption and to shake the current Iraqi prime minister. That is pure speculation on my part, but I think it correct.

Sadr has been made, perhaps justifiably so, as the boogeyman in Iraq. His militia has killed many. He is either not in full control of his militia, or he is duplicitous. It may be a combination.

However, Sadr remains a political power. Pushing him out of the way is a tremendous risk. Mahdi militia members claim that they have 60 percent of their force in the security establishment. Based on the conduct of death squads and kidnappers, they are probably not exaggerating. Badr/SCIRI wants Sadr out fo the way; their forces have clashed in the Shiite south. It is not surprising that Sunni moderates and the Kurds want to most violent Shiite group out of the picture. For the latter, Sadr is a strong nationalist and would push for a more centralized government. For the former, Sadr is the man behind the death squads and ethnic cleansing.

But, what is Sadr for the embattled Shiite population? That is where the risk arises. In an ironic sense, trying to push Sadr out of the process may strengthen his hand.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sadr is not going to go gently into that night.
There will be a lot of manuvering and strage bedfellow as the civil war enfolds in Iraq - just like Lebeanon.
This war will go on for decades specially if Iran and Saudi Arbia take different sides in it actively.

4:04 PM  

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