Friday, May 02, 2008

Politics in the War-on-Sadr environment

AlHayat says:
Iraqi politicians stressed that it is the government's crisis with the Sadr trend that is at the core of the parliamentary [actually UIA] delegation to Tehran, and[more particularly] a request for Tehran to put pressure on [Moqtada] to end the activities of the Mahdi Army and to sign a new agreement respecting "dissolution of the militia".
The journalist shows how this takes the form of a demand for Iran to "end support for the militias", backed up with "documents and pictures" purporting to show Iranian support for the Mahdi Army. But the point is that the aim of Maliki's delegation is to pressure their friends the Iranians to take a more anti-Sadr stance.

And Sadrist spokesperson Saleh al-Obeidi re-focused his recent remarks critical of Iran to make it clear that the problem is not strictly speaking Iran, but the attempt by the Maliki machine to use its alliance with Iran to pressure Sadr. (Same link as above). Obeidi said the fact that the delegation is trying to use Iran in this way is a good indication which side is in cahoots with Tehran, and which side is not, his main point being that the Sadrist trend is independent, and the idea that it was or is beholden to Iran has the story backwards.

(It's worth noting that the misleading story that Iran might have already pulled the plug on Sadr took over the food-chain yesterday like an invasive bacterium, and there is a good opportunity here to study how that works: The friendly blogger quoted a remark by Obeidi critical of Iran (IC, Wednesday April 30); Kevin Drum of WashingtonMonthly picked it up (same date), and soon, with or without the "grain of salt" proviso, it was everywhere: "Has Iran become the enemy of Sadr--what does this portend". I can confidently predict that the corrective remarks today, to the effect that the puppet government is trying to make Iran the enemy of Sadr, and the Sadr movement rejects this attempt to use Iran in this way, will not get the same play. Rather, the progressive blogger already has a comment (today May 2) suggesting Sadr's refusal to meet with the Badr-led delegation is another case of the petulant Sadr, in a situation of extreme weakness, brushing aside the outstretched hand).

Meanwhile, AlHayat in a separate article outlines some of the ways this "war on the Sadr trend" is affecting other political parties and movements. The journalist's main focus is the recently-announced "Honor Front", a collection of Awakenings planning to form itself into a political movement to contest the coming provincial elections, and national elections after that. Spokesperson "Abu Azzam" al-Tamimi told the reporter there will be a big political effort by his group starting with the coming provincial elections, in a form "completely separate from that of the sectarian parties", referring particularly, the reporter notes, to the Sunni parties in the Iraqi Accord Front (IAF):
And he pointed out that the coming stage "will see important political changes, following the participation of the Awakening Councils in the process, and the map of political alliances will change as well". And he made reference to the possibility of Sunni-Shia alliances in connection with this.
Tamimi didn't elaborate specifically on the theme of Sunni-Shia alliances, but he did address one of the stumbling-blocks in any such process, as follows:
On the question of the accusations of some political sectors to the effect that a lot of the Awakenings include former Baathists, Tamimi said: "The Councils don't represent the Baathists and won't be leading them back to power. The fact is that everyone knows that within the political movement that was announced a few days ago [talking about the Honor Front], there are included members of armed Iraqi factions, but this isn't something that should cause any anxiety about the return of the Baath, because the Iraqi state has witnessed a lot of changes that can't be just ignored. Everyone should acknowledge this [the fact there have been a lot of changes] and they should also acknowledge the impossibility of the return of a uni-polar system.
The reporter also quotes remarks by spokesmen for a couple of groups I am not familiar with, including something called the Constitution Discussion Group: (Secular parties are gaining in grassroots popularity with the evident failure of the religious parties to deliver on their promises); and something called the Adherents of the Call (The government-Sadr fight should be settled, because allowing it to continue will result in cancellation or long-term postponement of the provincial elections). By contrast, a spokesperson for the Islamic Party said this fight is a great way to clean up the situation ahead of the elections.

And a Sadrist person echoed the idea that it is in the nature of this fight--and its continuation-- to have the effect of postponing the provincial elections, currently expected to be held October 1. Sadrist deputy Nasar al-Saaidi said the whole point of the military campaign that was launched in March 25 was to cause a postponement in the provincial elections so as to continue as long as possible the control of the SupremeCouncil/Dawa group of provincial councils in the Center and the South.


Blogger Eric Martin said...

But don't you think it's possible that Iran sees a value in trying to help ISCI/Dawa vis-a-vis the Sadrist trend ahead of the upcoming elections?

Do you not think that the political agenda of ISCI/Dawa (moreso ISCI I would say) lines up more with Iran's, and that a big Sadr victory in the south could queer the Shiite Super Region plan?

If so, it might matter little whether or not the Sadrist trend rejects the effort for Iran and ISCI/Dawa to collaborate. It's not up to them so to speak.

That being said, I don't think Iran would pull the plug, or completely abandon the Sadrists. Just tighten the spigot a bit, and otherwise seek to undermine them in manageable ways.

9:55 AM  
Blogger badger said...

if you say so

11:29 AM  
Blogger Eric Martin said...

Well, actually, I was interested in your say so.

I readily concede that I'm just speculating. I can't say with anything approaching certainty that such cooperation is actually underway. But there are some signs popping up here and there.

And let me put it this way: I think some level of Iranian involvement in this regard is entirely plausible.

I feel pretty confident in saying that, if given the choice, Iran would prefer ISCI over Sadr. The question is, what are they willing to do in pursuit of that choice?

11:41 AM  
Blogger badger said...

This will provide policy-makers with key insights into the Iranian mindset, once you have seized control of the levers of power in Tehran.

4:57 PM  
Blogger Eric Martin said...

Quite true. Any day now by my count. Any interest in a ministerial post?

7:03 AM  

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