Saturday, March 22, 2008

Meanwhile, on the street...

Ahmad Masaoudi, a Sadrist deputy, accused Prime Minister Maliki and the branch of the Dawa party that he heads, of supervising a policy of military liquidation of the Sadrist trend in Babil province, in central Iraq.
AP says his remarks covered the whole central and southern region, and referred specifically to the pre-election environment and the question of nationalism:
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 AP. "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."
The violence spread to neigborhoods in the southwest part of Baghdad, and a Sadrist leader had the same complaint:

Sadrist leader Falah Shaneyshal said what is going on in the Southwest part of Baghdad is another attempt to draw the Sadrist trend into open war. He told AlHayat that the American and the Iraqi forces opened fire on worshippers in Shurta, adding he holds the government responsible for "these attacks, which were carried out by the occupation". He said "this was deliberate and there was coordination between the government and the American forces to draw the Sadrists into an armed confrontation". He said the members of the Mahdi Army respect the recent freeze order by Moqtada al-Sadr, and he urged the government and the Americans to respect it too.
In another article, AlHayat notes that a Sunni group has a similar complaint about government-sponsored provocations. The Association of Muslim Scholars of Iraq, supporters of the Sunni resistance, issued a statement denouncing what it said was a takeover by an armed group of a Sunni mosque in the Madaen district south of Baghdad, supported by something it called the "government guard". The statement said: "While the so-called Reconciliation Conference was going on in Baghdad, a roving sectarian group...supported by the Government Guard took over the Ayaf Mosque..."

(Madaen district, which includes modern-day Salman Pak, ancient Ctesiphon, and is something of a hot-spot in terms of national cultural identity, is where a couple of days ago the local Awakening issued its own denunciation of the government, threatening to halt their activities if the government forces didn't stop interfering with them. The Awakening statement said they had brought peace to the region, in contrast to the earlier control by government forces, which had left nothing but rancor and ill-feeling).

It is important to note the line-up here: The parties complaining about provocations or worse are: the Sadrists, AMSI, and a Sunni Awakening group. The parties being complained about are variously described as "Maliki and the wing of the Dawa party that he controls", "the government and the American forces", and "a sectarian group supported by the Government Guard". In other words, this new wave of violence appears to be a reflection in reality (so to speak) of the political line-up: Nationalist-oriented groups including the Sadrists, some Awakenings, and Sunni nationalists, versus the Maliki government and the occupation.

People and institutions who find this uncomfortable will prefer a smorgasbord of other explanations: "Rogue elements" in the Sadrist movement; Awakenings demanding their pay; and yes, Sunni-Shiite violence. All of it having some element of truth, but as basic explanations, all having that peculiar magic effect of making the occupation and its propping-up of this sectarian government, disappear as a factor.


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