Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Mook, The Chief, His Strife and Its Lovers

Prior to Bush's meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki today, Moqtada al-Sadr's political wing threatened to pull-out from the ruling coalition - effectively bringing down the government - should that meeting go ahead as planned. At least part of Sadr's motivation for making such a brash threat may be his perception that the Maliki-Bush meeting would result in (or add momentum to?) a budding alliance of various actors seeking to rein in Sadr's considerable power and influence.

Despite Spencer Ackerman's suggestion (which I seconded) that Sadr's ploy was deft political maneuvering, Swopa had his doubts:

While some usually incisive observers believe Mookie's defiance is smart political move, I think he's at risk of having to play cards he'd rather keep in reserve. Certainly his overall strategy of gradually increasing his "insider" influence in the government while maintaining a rabble-rousing public stance as an "outsider" has paid off enormously over the past three years -- but does he really want to bring the entire government down in a Samson-like protest?

Today, Sadr answered Swopa's question with a "no." Actually, it looks more like a "maybe." As this AP report indicates, the Sadr faction has "suspended" its participation in the government, but has not yet withdrawn so the government itself still stands.

Lawmakers and cabinet ministers loyal to anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have suspended participation in parliament and the government to protest Prime minister Nouri al-Maliki's summit with U.S. President George W. Bush.

A statement issued Wednesday by the 30 lawmakers and five Cabinet ministers said their action was necessary because the meeting constituted a "provocation to the feelings of the Iraqi people and a violation of their constitutional rights." The statement did not explain that claim.

So for now, it appears that Maliki called Sadr's bluff, and Sadr blinked. But it is unclear whether events on the ground will force his hand even further. There are ominous signs that the anti-Sadr forces (whoever they may be) are continuing their efforts, as the Sadr controlled Health Ministry came under attack again today.

Gunmen opened fire on Iraq's Shi'ite-run Health Ministry building in central Baghdad on Wednesday, for the second time in a week, officials in the building told Reuters as gunfire sounded in the background.

Deputy Health Minister Hakim al-Zamily said two mortar rounds exploded nearby and gunmen continued to fire on the building as security forces attempted to repel them. He said the raid was much more limited than last Thursday's attack, when five people were wounded in hours of clashes at the ministry.

Something to keep an eye on.

[UPDATE: I see that the Washington Post lede (via Blake at TAPPED) reads:

Bloc Led by Shiite Cleric Quits Iraqi Government

Quits? Interesting choice of words, because the opening paragraph repeats the AP's characterization of the move as a suspension of involvement, not an all out abandonment. Presumably, there is a difference in suspending one's involvement and quitting. The former denotes a temporary condition, while the latter is final. Unless I'm getting tripped up by the semantics. Wouldn't be the first time.]

[UPDATE II: Swopa agrees with my reading of "suspended involvement" to not mean "quit."]

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?