Posted by: Lister | March 30, 2008

Our man in Baghdad

British and US forces drawn into battle for Basra:

The timing of this week’s attack may also be explained by the decision this month, at the prompting of US Vice-President Dick Cheney, on a visit to Baghdad, to hold provincial elections. The US aim was to allow the Sunnis, who boycotted the last polls in January 2005, to win control of their provinces. But elections also threatened the SIIC’s grip on councils in southern Iraq because the party has become increasingly unpopular and the Sadrists were expected to win at the polls.

Five Things You Need to Know to Understand the Latest Violence in Iraq. The most important is that is politics — not sectarian.

The target under fire is Muqtadr al-Sadr:

Sadr has called on his followers to take to the streets to demand Maliki’s resignation, and nationalist lawmakers in the Iraqi Parliament, led by al-Sadr’s block, are trying to push a no-confidence vote challenging the prime minister’s regime.

[…] The “crackdown” comes on the heels of the approval of a new “provincial law,” which will ultimately determine whether Iraq remains a unified state with a strong central government or is divided into sectarian-based regional governates. The measure calls for provincial elections in October, and the winners of those elections will determine the future of the Iraqi state. Control of the country’s oil wealth, and how its treasure will be developed, will also be significantly influenced by the outcome of the elections.

[…] Maliki’s goal, shared by the like-minded allies among the Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish communities that dominate his administration, and with at least tacit U.S. approval, is to kill off the opposition and then hold a vote.

[…] It’s vitally important to understand that Sadr’s popularity and legitimacy is a result of his having a platform that’s favored by an overwhelming majority of Iraqis.

Most Iraqis:

*** Favor a strong central government free of the influence of militias.
*** Oppose, by a 2-1 margin, the privatization of Iraq’s energy sector — a “benchmark towards progress according to the Bush administration.
*** Favor a U.S. withdrawal on a short timeline (PDF) (most believe the United States plans to build permanent bases — both are issues about which the Sadrists have been vocal.
*** Oppose al Qaeda and the ideology of Osama Bin Laden and, to a lesser degree, Iranian influence on Iraq’s internal affairs.

With the exception of their opposition to Al Qaeda, the five major separatist parties — Sunni, Shia and Kurdish — that make up Maliki’s governing coalition are on the deeply unpopular side of these issues.

3. “Iraqi forces” are, in fact, “Iranian- (and U.S.-) backed Shiite militias”

[…] It has always been the great irony of the occupation of Iraq that “our” man in Baghdad is also Tehran’s. Maliki heads the Dawa Party, which has long enjoyed close ties to Iran, and relies on support from SIIC, a staunchly pro-Iranian party, and its powerful Badr militia.

(Above link via Doug’s Darkworld).

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