Sunday, April 15, 2007

Sadr Makes His Long-Planned Move

By Cernig

Various news agencies are reporting that the Sadrist block, comprising six government ministers and around a quarter of all Iraqi MP's, will pull out of ruling coalition tomorrow. Reuters probably has one of the best reports on the matter.
The political movement of fiery Iraqi Shi'ite cleric and militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr said on Sunday it would withdraw from the government on Monday to press its demand for a timetable for a U.S. troop withdrawal.

Officials from the movement, which holds six ministries and a quarter of the parliamentary seats in Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Shi'ite Alliance, said the formal announcement would be made on Monday at a news conference.

....The move is unlikely to bring down the government, but it could create tensions in Maliki's fractious Shi'ite-led government of national unity at a time when it is trying to heal sectarian divisions that threaten to tip Iraq into civil war.

"We are going to declare our withdrawal from government because the prime minister does not want to make a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign forces from Iraq," said one official in Sadr's movement who declined to be identified.

There was no immediate comment from the government.

Maliki says he sees no need to set a timetable. He said last week his government was working to build up Iraq's security forces as quickly as possible so U.S.-led forces could leave.

Two other Sadr officials confirmed the intention to pull out of the government but stressed the movement would continue to give "cautious" backing to a U.S.-Iraqi security crackdown in the capital. The Sadrists will remain in parliament.
According to a Sadr spokesman, this is so that Maliki has the best chance to rule...
"We don't believe in partisan quotas. Under the direct orders of Moqtada al-Sadr we have decided we are going to leave the government in order to give the prime minister the best possible options so that he can run his government," Muteyri said.
Yeah, riiiiight.

But let's be clear about one thing, before the idiots start claiming it as a victory of some kind - this is not about the surge.

By remaining in parliament, the Sadrists have avoided a constitutional crisis - one they could so easily have created if that were their wish - whereby the parliament could almost never have reached a quorum. Instead, they have created a power vacuum and set themselves up as a new de facto opposition around which other groups opposed to the occupation can coalesce. This, in fact, has been their plan for some time. The Sadrists have been one of the guiding light behind a nascent anti-occupation "national salvation front" which would cut across sectarian divisions and which has, since December of last year, been awaiting the right time to make its move. Back in December, Iraqi blogger Raed wrote that:
Mr. Saleh Al-Mutlaq, the head of the national dialogue front, told “Al-arab Al-Yaum” that the national salvation front that will be announced soon will include the national dialogue front, the national Iraqi list led by allawi, the reconciliation and liberation front led by meshaan aljuburi, and the Sadr movement.

Mr. Almutlaq added that the new front will include a number of groups that are not participating in the current Iraqi government including Baathists, pan-arabists, the Founding Conference that includes 46 political movements, the old Iraqi army leadership, and tribal leaders from the middle and south of Iraq. In addition, the front will include representatives from Turcoman, Yazidi, and Kurdish patriotic leaders who are against the occupation and for Iraq’s unity, and other Christian movements that believe in Iraq’s unity.

Mr. Al-Mutlaq added that the national salvation government will be supported by 7 religious leaders who hold the Ayatollah title, including Al-Baghdadi, Al-Yaqoubi, Al-Muayad, Al-Maleki, Al-Sarkhi, and Al-Khalisi.
The Iraqi Muslim Scholars association will have representatives in the front as well, according to mr. almutlaq.

Concerning the goals on the new front, Mr. Al-mutlaq said that the front will work to set a timetable (or time limit) for the U.S. presence in Iraq, which is an important condition that will convince the Iraqi resistance to stop fighting and start participating in the Iraqi government.

Mr. Al-Mutlaq said that the NSF will take over the current Iraqi government either by pulling out from the current parliament and creating a new government, or through holding an international conference that may be based on points 30, 31 and 32 of the UN Security Council resolution No. 1546 that calls for a conference every three months that includes the Iraqi government, the multi-national forces, and the UN secretary general to discuss the developments in Iraq.

Finally, and concerning the time that the national salvation front will be announced, Mr. Al-Mutlaq said that the front is coordinating with other regional powers to reach the right timing for this announcement to achieve the front’s goals and minimize any sacrifices.
That time seems to have arrived.

(You can view the various political coalitions here, and ponder for youself how the Sadrist move will alter the balance of political power in Iraq.)

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