It is awfully suspicious that as soon as a firm date was set for new provincial elections in Iraq (October 1), the truce broke down between the paramilitary of Muqtada al-Sadr and that of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim. This according to Nassar al-Rubaie, the leader of the Sadrist bloc in parliament. The Sadrists say that the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), led by al-Hakim, was supposed to form joint councils in the provinces to resolve disputes, but never did. A lot of the fighting in the south, as at Karbala last fall or at Diwaniyah is actually between Mahdi Army militiamen and Iraqi police recruited from the Badr Corps paramilitary of ISCI.
There is a good chance of the Sadrists taking much of the south in the provincial elections if they are fair, and Muqtada may not want to be bound by agreements with a party that he will seek to toss out of office. ISCI now has Diyala, Baghdad, Hilla, Qadisiyah (Diwaniyah), Najaf, Karbala, Dhi Qar, and Muthanna. Maysan with its capital at Amara is controlled by the Sadrists. The southern oil province of Basra is controlled by the Islamic Virtue Party, an offshoot of the Sadr Movement that rejects Muqtada in favor of Ayatollah Muhammad Ya`qubi.
Al-Zaman reports in Arabic that Hadi al-Amiri, the leader of the Badr Corps, affirms that the truce with the Mahdi Army still stands from his point of view. He told al-Zaman, “Those who have the right to announce a collapse of the agreement are al-Hakim and Muqtada al-Sadr, in their capacities as the signers of it.” He said that the agreement was signed by two leaders, not by two parties and that therefore al-Rubaie (as a parliamentarian) has no say in it. He concluded, “The problem of the Sadrists is with the law, not with the Supreme Council.” He said that the Sadrists are protesting arrests made of Mahdi Army commanders in Karbala and Diwaniyah, but that these were ordered by the Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki, for the purpose of restoring security and establishing a rule of law for all. Both the provinces of Karbala and Diwaniyah are ruled by the Supreme Council, so al-Amiri seems to be eager to exonerate them of charges they have moved against the Sadrists. Instead, he said the arrests were ordered by al-Maliki, the head of the Islamic Call (al-Da`wa) Party.
For his part, al-Rubaie said that he was just stating the obvious, which was that the Badr-Sadr agreement was simply not active. Al-Amiri complained that al-Rubaie has made such statements before, only to have to back off them fairly quickly.
Meanwhile, al-Zaman reports in Arabic that a plan by Nuri al-Maliki to give some key ministries to technocrats and to cut his cabinet down to 22 ministers has foundered. Parties who actually won elections and sit in parliament don’t want to give up control of important ministries to unelected technocrats.
Leila Fadel of McClatchy reports that the Kurdistan Regional Authority is placing restrictions on where Arab Iraqis can live in the Kurdish-dominated north.
See recent postings at our collective blog on Global Affairs. One of them is by Gershon Shafir and it looks at the Gaza issue. The other is by Farideh Farhi and deals with the uncertainties of Iran’s upcoming elections, and the crackdown on candidates by the hardliners.
At the Napoleon’s Egypt blog, a new letter by Gen. Berthier on the siege of Acre.