Major partners in Iraq’s governing coalition are in behind-the-scenes talks to oust Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki amid discontent over his failure to quell raging violence, according to lawmakers involved.
The talks are aimed at forming a new parliamentary bloc that would seek to replace the current government and that would likely exclude supporters of the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who is a vehement opponent of the U.S. military presence…
[Sadrist MPs] said al-Maliki was livid at the attempt to unseat him.
“We know what’s going on and we will sabotage it,” said a close al-Maliki aide who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivities involved. He did not elaborate.
So there’s the vaunted political solution which everyone (except me) agrees has to happen before the militias can be dealt with. In fact, Gen. Chiarelli told Time this weekend that he thinks the right deal could lead them to disarm voluntarily. He … doesn’t sound like he’s kidding.
Q. You can see a political deal is struck and these people drop their guns and go home?
A. Right now, I have to believe that’s the case. There can be no solution to Iraq’s problems without tackling the militias. And this has to happen soon. We had a chance to tackle the militias in ’04 [after a U.S. crackdown against the Mahdi Army], but then people were so happy Moqtada al-Sadr agreed to join the political process that they never forced his militia to disarm.
In other words, he’s counting on a political solution to lead the militias to lay down their arms peacefully even though the last time we tried this, with al-Sadr, it led to him becoming the most powerful political and (para)military force in Iraq. It’s his MPs in parliament on whom Maliki depends for his majority, which is why he wouldn’t move against the Sadrists, which in turn is why we are where we are right now with rival parties organizing to oust him — all because the Mahdi army didn’t voluntarily disarm when they joined the political system.
Bush might, therefore, end up with fewer strategic options than he thought in terms of what comes next. WaPo says he’s trying to decide between securing Baghdad, focusing on Al Qaeda, and lining up with the Shiites against the Sunnis. If the anti-Maliki bloc pulls this off and isolates al-Sadr, he’s not going to take it well; Bush will have to respond, which means the Mahdi army and the Corps might at long last have themselves a little date with destiny sometime this coming year, God willing.
That’s as good as the news gets from Iraq right now, so enjoy it. But don’t celebrate too much: the leader of the anti-Maliki bloc is Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the Shiite cleric who heads the SCIRI party and who met with Bush at the White House last week (probably to discuss this very subject). “SCIRI” stands for “Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.” It was formed by Iran in 1982 to fight Saddam and has even closer ties to the mullahs than al-Sadr does. According to Wikipedia, “SCIRI supports the tenet of Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that government should be controlled by the ulema (Islamic scholars)…”
The new prime minister is expected to come from the party, with al-Hakim as his eminence grise.