Monday, April 07, 2008

Iraq PM Throws in Hat with SIIC, Threatens to Prohibit Sadr Movement from Participating in Autumn Elections

News reports today suggest that my (and other's) earlier suspicions that the recent Iraqi government operations in the southern port city of Basra against the Sadr Movement were correct. These operations are designed to strengthen the hand of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's [above with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad] chief political ally, 'Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim who heads the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC). It seems that al-Maliki and al-Hakim hope to weaken the movement of Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr, which includes a powerful if loosely-organized paramilitary, the Mahdi Army, and an equally powerful political wing which holds some 30 seats in the Iraqi parliament.

Today al-Maliki said that the Sadr Movement would not be permitted to participate in autumn elections unless he disbands the Mahdi Army. Unsuprisingly, al-Maliki was mum on the Badr Corps (or Brigades), the Iranian-trained paramilitary of the SIIC. Predictably, the U.S. military is reportedly preparing to allege Iranian involvement on the side of al-Sadr in Basra, despite the implausibility of this claim since Iran's closest ally in Iraq is al-Hakim [RIGHT] and the SIIC. The SIIC, formerly the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, was indeed founded in Iran (by Arab Iraqi exiles) in November 1982 with the heavy support of Ayatullah Sayyid Ruhollah Khumayni. The SIIC is reportedly increasingly weak in southern Iraq whereas the Sadr Movement's power and popularity is growing. Informal data strongly suggests that in a fair election, the Sadr Movement would wipe the floor with the SIIC and al-Maliki's Hizb al-Da'wa party (Party of Islamic Call).

Iraqi Leader Warns Sadr Movement
BBC News (April 7, 2008)
Iraq's prime minister has threatened to exclude the supporters of radical cleric Moqtada Sadr from politics. Nouri Maliki told CNN that the cleric's movement would not be allowed to take part in elections unless it disbanded its militia, the Mehdi Army.
The prime minister and major Iraqi parties had already called for militias to be dissolved as the government waged a security campaign against the groups. But it was the first time that Mr Maliki had singled out the Mehdi Army. Aides to Moqtada Sadr on Monday said he would disband the militia if senior Shia religious leaders ordered him to do so. They said a delegation would be sent to discuss the issue with the top Shia cleric in Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, and a grand ayatollah based in Iran.

In his interview, Mr Maliki said: "A decision was taken... that they no longer have a right to participate in the political process or take part in the upcoming elections unless they end the Mehdi Army. "Solving the problem comes in no other way than dissolving the Mehdi Army."
We have opened the door for confrontation, a real confrontation with these gangs Nouri Maliki, Iraqi prime minister The provincial elections are scheduled for later this year.
Mr. Maliki took power with the help of Moqtada Sadr, but broke with the cleric last year.
The BBC's Adam Brookes in Baghdad says the confrontation between the two men is growing.
Two weeks ago the prime minister sent thousands of troops into the city of Basra to try to force the Mehdi Army into submission.

The militia withdrew from the streets, but the operation was inconclusive. Mr. Maliki said the government would continue the crackdown. "We have opened the door for confrontation, a real confrontation with these gangs, and we will not stop until we are in full control of these areas," he said.
An MP for the Sadr bloc, Liqaa Aal Yassin, told the BBC Arabic service that two delegations would be sent - to Grand Ayatollah Sistani in Najaf and Grand Ayatollah Kazem al-Husseini al-Haeri in Iran - to discuss the possible disbanding of the Mehdi Army. Ms. Yassin said the government was also sending a delegation to Moqtada Sadr to discuss Mr. Maliki's demand.
Mr Maliki's comments came after heavy fighting between US and Iraqi forces and the Mehdi Army at the weekend.
At least 22 people were killed and more than 50 others injured in clashes in the capital's eastern district of Sadr City, a stronghold of the militia. Five US soldiers were killed, including three who died during rocket and mortar attacks in Baghdad. Two of those died in attacks on the heavily-fortified Green Zone. Moqtada Sadr [LEFT at podium...the poster above shows his martyred uncle, Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, and father, Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr] has called for a mass demonstration on Wednesday against the US military presence.
[So much for McCain's "surge" success, i.e. bulls**t]

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