Sadrists to Pull out of Cabinet
50 Killed in Spate of Bombings
The six cabinet members belonging to the Sadr Movement in Nuri al-Maliki’s government are set to resign. The movement’s 32 parliamentarians will continue to attend sessions of the legislature, but presumably would vote against the prime minister in a vote of no confidence. The Sadrists want the Iraqi government to insist on setting a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, and are annoyed that PM al-Maliki publicly rejected that approach recently when he was in Japan.
Sam Dagher of CSM describes the parliament as already in “disarray.” Unlike a lot of the tear-jerkers written by sentimental journalists last Friday after the bombing of parliament, which suggested that everyone had united in response, Dagher gives us a more clear-eyed view of the scene:
‘ The heated exchanges at the meeting Friday illustrated the sectarian divide in parliament. Mustafa al-Hiti of the National Dialogue Front (NDF), the Sunni bloc to which the killed parliamentarian Mohammed Awadh belonged, spoke about a “conspiracy” by other government organs to weaken parliament and target Sunni lawmakers. Hassan al-Shimmari of the Shiite Fadhila Islamic party, which recently broke ranks with the dominant Shiite United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) bloc, demanded better security for the building and “more respect” for MPs. Nassar Al-Rubaie from the group loyal to radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr berated his colleagues for not having the courage “to hold the US occupation forces responsible for the attack,” since they were chiefly in charge of the Green Zone’s security.’
I now count those who would probably vote against al-Maliki if the question was called this way: The Iraqiya List of Iyad Allawi: 25; The Fadhila Party: 15; the National Dialogue Front (secularist Sunnis): 11; Sadrists: 32. That is 83. I don’t know what the Iraqi Accord Front (fundamentalist Sunnis) would do. They have 44 seats. If they voted against, that would be 127. It would take 138 to cause the government to fall, which means that if the Sunnis were disgruntled enough, and if a few (11) other Shiites defected, even al-Maliki’s powerful coalition of Kurds and fundamentalist Shiites could not protect him. I think the Iraq government is gradually collapsing; likely the end state is just dysfunctionality rather than anything dramatic. There was a Lebanese parliament all through the Civil War there, it just did not do anything and couldn’t meet (the parliament building lay on the Green Line along which the fighting raged).
Al-Zaman writing in Arabic says that the Mahdi Army has imposed its dominance on parts of the Ghazaliya district of Baghdad, having usurped houses on Mashjar St.
The same source says that MP Hasan al-Shammari, a spokesman for the Islamic Virtue Party (Fadhila), warned of a social explosion in Basra as a result of calls for rebellion against the local authorities. He said a plot has been uncovered to assassinate the governor of Basra province, Muhammad Misbah al-Wa’ili, and to occupy the governor’s mansion. (Among Fadhila’s rivals in Basra is the Sadr Movement and its Mahdi Army militia).
The Sadrists had called for a big demonstration in Basra on Monday, but other political leaders, such as PM al-Maliki, argued that it should be cancelled given the tense security situation in the city. Basrans have been buying and storing supplies in case things go bad.
Dilip Hiro at Tomdispatch.com on the potential of the Sadr Movement to eclipse Bush’s surge.
With regard to political violence in Iraq on Sunday, some 50 were killed. AFP explains:
‘ a spate of devastating blasts killed 43 people in Shiite shopping areas. Eighteen people died when a booby-trapped car blew up outside a restaurant and a second ripped through a market in the southern Al-Shurta al-Arabaa suburb of Iraq’s capital, a medic said.
As the skeleton of burnt wreckage still smouldered, a bus rigged with bombs exploded in a downtown shopping district in Karrada, killing at least 11 people and wounding 18, defence and security sources said.
In the northern and predominantly Shia district of Al-Utaifiyah, a suicide bomber boarded a minibus and blew himself up, killing six people and wounding 10, said another security official on condition of anonymity.
Soon after nightfall, another two roadside bombs exploded within minutes of each other in Karrada, killing eight people and wounding 23, a security official said. ‘
Reuters adds further attacks, including truck bombings in the northern city of Mosul that left 4 dead and 17 wounded.
Richard Oppel of the NYT profiles the deadly situation in Baquba, northeast of Baghdad. Not a good scene.
Al-Hayat writes in Arabic that according to Shaikh Ali al-Faris of the Dulaim, some Sunni Arab tribes in the north are reaching out to Shiite tribes in the south in hopes of building an Iraqi national movement to force US troops out of their country, which would transcend sectarian considerations. If any such pan-Islamic alliance ever did develop, it would become very difficult for the US to stay in Iraq. Faris maintains that attempts by the Iraqi government to bring guerrilla groups into the political process have failed, largely because of the ongoing foreign occupation, which is a deal breaker for them. He dismisses allegations by other Sheikhs that the tribes are going over to the al-Maliki government and the Americans. This is the most balanced article I’ve seen in al-Hayat on the role of the tribes of al-Anbar province.
James Zogby discusses the new role of Iraq as the ‘Afghanistan’ of the zeroes, attracting a Jihadist international from North Africa and elsewhere.
The United Nations High Commission on Human Rights is holding a conference to highlight the challenges facing the some 4 million Iraqis displaced by the aftermath of Bush’s invasion.
Al-Zaman also reports that the issue of Kirkuk will be taken up at the Sharm el Sheikh conference of Iraqis and their neighbors scheduled for April 20. Residents of various ethnicities will discuss its possible fate.
As longtime readers know, I think Kirkuk province should be partitioned and the parts with high Kurdish populations be given to the Kurds. Turkmen and Arabs should have their own enclaves.
Patrick Seale on the role of the Neoconservatives and the Israeli Right in pushing the United States into the Iraq War.