Friday, March 21, 2008

Playing Patience With Iraq

By Cernig

As Eric points out, Mookie al-Sadr isn't politically dead yet despite the many obituaries for his career written with Friedmanlike consistency by rightwing cheerleaders of the Iraqi misadventure. That isn't to say that his main Shiite rivals, who are even more closely allied to Iran than the Sadrists, aren't trying to retroactively make all those cheerleaders' pronouncements come true.
Iraqi security forces battled Shiite gunmen south of Baghdad on Friday, raising tensions among rival factions of the country's majority religious community and straining a seven-month cease-fire proclaimed by the biggest Shiite militia.

The fighting in Kut, 100 miles southeast of Baghdad, broke out Thursday night when factions of the Mahdi Army, led by anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, attacked checkpoints throughout the city, officials and witnesses said.

...Al-Sadr's supporters have complained that the Shiite-led government has used the cease-fire to accelerate a crackdown against their movement in Baghdad and the Shiite heartland south of the capital.

Iraqi security forces are heavily influenced by a rival Shiite group, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, which wields considerable power in the central government and in provincial administrations throughout the south.

Rival Shiite groups have been battling for control of the oil-rich south with an eye toward the eventual withdrawal of U.S.-led forces. Shiites form an estimated 60 percent of Iraq's 27 million people.

A Sadrist member of parliament alleged that the crackdown in Kut and elsewhere in the south was part of a move by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Dawa party and the supreme council to prevent al-Sadr's followers from winning control of key southern provinces in provincial elections expected this fall.

"They have no supporters in the central and southern provinces, but we do," Ahmed al-Massoudi told The Associated Press. "If the crackdown against the Sadrists continues, we will begin consultations with other parliamentary blocs to bring down the government and replace it with a genuinely national one."
On this, the Sadrists are actually in the right. Whatever else they may have done, their SIIC (formerly SCIRI) rivals are definitely using their own Badr Brigade militia's utter penetration and co-opting of the Iraqi police in the South to go after the Sadrists. So much for democratic means, eh?

Which brings me neatly to the new regional elections bill just passed by the Iraqi government. The cheerleaders want it to be an important step in the reconcilliation process but it just isn't. It's been held up for ages by - you guessed it - the Shiite vice president and SIIC member, Adel Abdul-Mahdi, who refused to sign the bill until Cheney leaned on him. Now it has been ratified and the mainstream media's poodles are obligingly looking the other way on those devilish details.
Last month, Iraq's parliament passed the bill calling for provincial elections by Oct. 1. But the presidential council blocked implementation after the Shiite vice president, Adel Abdul-Mahdi, raised objections to some of the provisions.

That outraged followers of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who are eager for elections to take power away from Abdul-Mahdi's party in the vast, oil-rich Shiite heartland of southern Iraq. Al-Sadr's supporters believed their Shiite rivals were trying to delay the vote to hold on to power.

Although many details must still be worked out before a vote can be scheduled, the council's decision Wednesday makes it likely that a vote can take place later this year.
That last sentence is a gem, the only mention of problems in implementing the bill. Yet among the tiny "details" still to be decided that are too inconsequential to mention are things like: when the regional elections will actually be held as that may still change in negotiations no matter what the bill says, whether there will be a rolling set of elections pushing the completion date of the process out into the never-never, and whether it will be possible for ruling parties like the SIIC to actually block the holding of regional elections in areas where they don't want them happening at all.

That's quite a set of details going unmentioned by the cheerleaders, but the bill is signed and that's going to be enough for the pro-occupation faction in American politics to dangle it as a carrot for at least another couple of Friedman's worth of occupational "patience".

No comments: