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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

They Say It Like Its A Bad Thing...

The 6 "Sadrist" Ministers quit the Iraq Government yesterday.

BAGHDAD - Cabinet ministers loyal to the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr resigned on Monday to protest the prime minister's refusal to set a timetable for an American withdrawal, raising the prospect that the Mahdi Army militia could return to the streets of Baghdad.

The departure of the six ministers, while unlikely to topple Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government, deals a significant blow to the U.S.-backed leader, who relied on support from the Sadrists to gain office.

A "significant blow?" It's called "cleaning house." The Sadrists are pre-empting a move by the PM that has been expected for a while now.

Maliki has also given the green light to a crackdown on Shiite militias and death squads, serving notice that the war of the sectarians must end. Within the next few weeks, he is expected to further anger Tehran by dropping from his Cabinet all five Sadrist ministers, who are beholden to the Iranian regime.

The media, once again, is distorting good news - trying to paint a crackdown on the more extremist shi'ite elements within the society represented by Al-Sadr as some sort of "government breakdown."

The problem is not that the Sadrists are leaving. The problem is that there are Sadrists in the Government, especially the Ministry of Health, where they use government resources to pursue sectarian agendas.

There are 27 ministries in Iraq with the Sadrists having been given 6 (really 5 and one "independent") the major one being the Health Ministry. They were given those slots (out of all proportion to their number) by Maliki as payback for Sadr's support for him as PM.

What you have to understand is that in Iraqi politics the parliament is broken down into several caucuses or blocs, mostly based on sectarian loyalty. But each bloc may be comprised of several parties. The breakdown of the shi'ite bloc in the Parliament basically reads like this:

Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) 40%
Da'wa 40%
Sadrists 15%
Other 5%

Maliki is from the Da'wa party. Taken together, the members of SCIRI and Da'wa who represent the mainstream shi'ite parties dwarf the number of Sadrists. But when the shia bloc was debating on who to put forward as a nominee for the PM slot to the Parliament - the Sadrists held the crucial swing vote. Da'wa had a candidate (Maliki) and SCIRI had a candidate (Adel Abdel Mahdi.) The Sadrists held the power in that one vote.

But the Sadrists are not a major factor in the Parliament. They are a minority in a minority (the shia bloc is less than 50% of the Parliament.)

Therefore, the departure of Sadrist ministers doesn't threaten the stability of the Government. The Sadrists are not a factor enough in Parliament to bring down the Government, or even paralyze Parliamentary operations should they decide to "boycott" the Parliament as well.

What these articles should be highlighting is that Maliki, as demonstrated by his action in the past 2 months, has come to the conclusion that he's paid back Sadr enough, and that his future demands a stabilization of the situation in Iraq and an alliance with us. And it's high past time.


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