Omar of Iraq the Model describes the political context behind the clashes with the Mahdi Army at Pajamas Media.
This is the first sign of the rising election fever in the south. Word on the street is that Sadrists want to hijack the provincial elections. Everybody knows that their criminal methods can severely reduce the chances for holding fair elections and may grant Sadr’s people huge gains at the expense of other Shiite factions such as the SIIC, Da’wa and Fadheela. The stakes are high for the SIIC in particular whose federal dream in the south, which Sadr is opposed to, hinges on the results of provincial elections.
If Sadr is to be cut down to size before the provincial election law can be passed, presumably his rivals would be able to compete in a relatively more civil way. The outcome of this operation in my opinion will not involve the extermination of Sadr’s militia but rather the reduction of its power.
A truce would then be put in place with mediation by senior clerics, tribal leaders and third-party politicians.
But this would be a mistake - similar to former interim prime minister Allawi’s when he didn’t finish the job back in Najaf four years ago, except that the situation is more complicated this time as both belligerents are from the UIA.
Why? Because leaders like Saddam, Nasrallah and Sadr is always manage to turn defeat into symbolic victory for domestic consumption. If Sadr and a decent part of the movement’s command survive this round, he will portray his movement as an innocent victim of the “occupation and its agents” and will use this for an even louder propaganda campaign after the battle.
The attitude of the other factions towards Sadr was manifested when the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance and the Kurdish Alliance apparently boycotted sessions attended by Sadr's faction. The question of how far Maliki will go against Sadr was partially answered when the Iraqi PM extended the deadline for the militias to lay down their arms. This has led some to suggest that a deal is now in the works.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has extended his deadline for members of the Mehdi Army militia in Basra to lay down their weapons. Mr Maliki said they would have until April 8 to disarm and that they would be given money if they did.
The violence in Shiite areas of Iraq is not over, but there are signs that some sort of compromise is being worked on. After days of strong words, Mr Maliki has announced a 10-day extension to the deadline for militiamen to lay down their weapons.
But it's also possible that Maliki is trying to peel away the less loyal of Sadr's commanders and turn them to his side. Which exactly will be the case the next few days will reveal.
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