Sunday, July 08, 2007

Regime change: De-Sadrization won't be good news for the American forces

Mostly overlapping reports in Al-Quds al-Arabi, Azzaman and Al-Hayat indicate the following: (1) Prime Minister Maliki, under pressure from the Americans for some semblance of progress on the "benchmarks", stepped up his verbal attacks on the Sadrist current to an unacceptable level, triggering not only the Sadrist protest demonstrations in Baghdad yesterday, but also statements by Sadrist spokesmen to the effect that this shows Maliki is in the process of being dumped by the Americans. (2) Within the Shiite bloc, there is a restructuring that excludes the Sadrist movement (and the Fadhila, presumably), involving a re-allocation of benefits to the Dawa and Supreme Council (Hakim) parties. Sadrists talk about a Dawa-Supreme Council coordinating committee that is doing this. (3) As for the government coalition as a whole, president Talabani announced an agreement that brings the (Sunni) Iraqi Accord Front ministers back into the government, after a two- or three-week absense that was triggered by the criminal proceedings against one of their leaders.

Al-Quds al-Arabi, in its front-page news item on this, said Sadrist public affairs coordinator Ahmed al-Shibani, responding to accustions by Maliki to the effect the Mahdi Army includes Baathists and Sadamists, and engages in terrorism, said statements like that show Maliki is still trying to convince the occupation forces that he is capable of putting down the Sadrists, but this is too late for him, because the Maliki government "is on the edge of the abyss and will collapse in a few days time".

And a Sadrist spokesman in Najaf, Salah al-Abidi, said what Maliki has done with these statements is to give the green light to the occupation forces to strike the Sadrist current.
Al-Abidi added that these recent statements by Maliki are a link in the chain of continuing attacks on the Sadr current by the occupation forces, and the aim is to show that the government is implicated in the scheme...and to ingratiate [the government] with them via these statements against the [Sadrist] current.
In its lead editorial, Al-Quds al-Arabi agrees that these latest developments mean the Maliki government is headed for collapse. The editorialist writes: "Nuri al-Maliki lost another mainstay supporting for his government, with his fierce attack on the Mahdi Army, accusing it of terror and of including discredited Baathists and Sadamists," noting this is the military arm of the Sadrist party, whose support was decisive in making Maliki the Shiite-bloc candidate for Prime Minister last year. While Maliki-Sadr relations have been deteriorating gradually over the last few months, with the Sadrists withdrawing from Parliament and then its ministers withdrawing from cabinet en masse, these latest verbal attacks, and the Sadrist protest demonstration that followed, have changed this from a quiet and civilized protest, into an open and armed confrontation, the editorialist says. In fact Iraqi army forces have already been involved in fierce fighting with the Mahdi army in a number of locations, most notably Samawa. And the editorialist says, echoing the Sadrist spokesman cited above
There are those who see this verbal attack by Maliki on the Madhi Army, with this degree of clarity, as a green light to go ahead and liquidate this army militarily and end its presence on the ground.
Azzaman adds even more harsh assessments by these and other Sadrist leaders, including the accusation that the Dawa and Supreme Council parties are already dividing up the spoils from the exclusion of the Sadrist party; a statement by Sadrist official Ahmad al-Sharifi to accusing Maliki of having worked hand in glove with the Americans to gradually involve the occupation forces in attacks on the Sadrist current. The Azzaman journalist ties this to the statement reported in the WaPo yesterday citing White House sources as skeptical of progress on the "benchmarks", one of which was elimination of the militias.

Al-Hayat, for its part, contributes details respecting the plans for a restructuring of the overall governing coalition, excluding the Sadrists. Talabani said there was an agreement for the return of the (Sunni Arab) Iraqi Accord Front ministers to the government, following an absence of two or three weeks that had been triggered by disputes over presidency of the Parliament and criminal proceedings against one of the IAF leaders.
A member of parliament with [the Shiite coalition] and leader of the Dawa party, Ali Al-Adeeb said there will be an announcement in a couple of weeks of formation of the new parliamentary coalition, which will try to support the Maliki government, and it will include [presumably in addition to the IAF Sunni Arab parties mentioned above] the Dawa party, led by Maliki, and the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council [formerly SCIRI] led by Abdulaziz al-Hakim, along with [the two big Kurdish parties].
The Al-Hayat reporter quotes an IAF spokesman to the effect that the dispute over the post of president of Parliament (the Mashhadani issue) isn't really settled yet, nor has the IAF made a final determination what its position will be on that issue. The spokesman implied that splits inside the IAF could delay resolution of this. And the journalist seems to imply that in turn could delay the "new parliamentary coalition" announcement.

Al-Quds al-Arabi, in the above-mentioned editorial, concedes the return of the IAF ministers to the government could work to extend the life of the Maliki government a little more. However, the editorialist adds: The fact remains the Maliki government is in a state of continuing failure, having been unable to meet any of the targets including Sunni-Shiite reconciliation, disbanding of militias, and so on. Following its earlier loss of support from the Fadhila party, now it is losing the support of the Sadrists too, and will end up being particularly bad news for the American forces.
The inclusion of the Sadrist current among those groups that resist the occupation is going to make the task of the American forces difficult if not impossible. And this is particularly the case if we take into account the fact that the new Bush strategy, with the 30,000 additional troops to secure Baghdad, has had exactly the opposite of the desired effect, with a noticeable increase in American losses, and growth too in the frequency of bomb attacks and anonymous bodies...
Hard to summarize all of this? Not at all! What is happening is either the slow implementation of the Hadley memo recommendation (creation of a new support base for Maliki that would exclude the Sadrists), or else a modification of that to include the actual dumping of Maliki (the "Allawi plan"). On the Shiite split, why not re-read this December 2006 post called "Dollar-diplomacy to split the Shiites: Will it work this time?" And on the relationship of the Shiite-split to the Allawi plan, see this Feb 2007 post called "More on the Allawi plan for a national-security government". Or you could type "Hadley" in the search-box at the top of the page and read the whole history.


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