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October 2, 2010
Maliki-Sadr partnership; what could go wrong?
Well, at least the stalemate has ended in Iraq after 6 months of haggling. It's the way it ended that should concern us.
Mookie al-Sadr ended up tossing his support to former and now current prime minister Nouri-al-Maliki to break the deadlock that had threatened the political stability of the nation. On the outside looking in - the nominal winner of the election last March Ayad Allawi and his coalition of secular parties who had defeat snatched from the jaws of victory by some quick footed manipulation of the election results by Maliki.
It wouldn't have mattered. Allawi's margin of victory was so thin that the Shiites would have balked at making him PM anyway. He will get some scraps from Maliki in the new government - a few ministries at best - while rumor has it that the anti-American Sadrites might be in line for a security portfolio:
It's not yet clear what concessions al-Maliki has promised the Sadrists in exchange for their support, but they will no doubt include several Cabinet positions. The last time the cleric's nominees held national office (in al-Maliki's '06 Cabinet), they were incompetent even by Iraqi standards. The scariest rumor in Baghdad tonight is that al-Sadr has demanded one of the two Security Ministries: Defense or Interior. The prospect of a representative from the Mahdi Army, notorious for its sectarian violence against Sunnis, overseeing either the Iraqi military or its police force will hardly reassure the Obama Administration, which has been pushing hard for an end to the political stalemate in Baghdad but also seeks stability. This may be a case of being careful what you wish for: al-Sadr is vehemently anti-American and has drawn close to Iran since he moved to the holy city of Qom in 2007, apparently to pursue religious studies that will eventually make him an ayatullah.Fortunately, this marriage is not likely to last. The last thing Sadr wants is to be associated with another failed administration (his masters in Tehran want him to remain as independent as possible), while Maliki is not pining to grant any legitimacy to Sadr that would make him a real rival. The key will be to manage the break up so that the government doesn't fall. This is where Allawi might come in as the selfless broker who helps Maliki cobble together another governing coalition.
It is not likely this government or parliament will be any better than the last one. But we can hope that it will be a little more stable.