Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Perspective: Iraq's Shi'ite Alliance recovering from first split

Left: Shi'ite cleric Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, and head of the Shi'ite Alliance in the National Assembly, which maintains Prime Minister Maliki in power. Hakim spent years in exile in Iran before returning to Iraq. In December, he met with Bush in Washington, shortly before the administration attempted to coordinate Prime Minister Maliki's ouster with Hakim chosen by Washington to be the power-broker behind the scenes. The elder Hakim is also head of the Badr Brigade, a Shi'ite militia. In February, the U.S. raided the Baratha mosque in Baghdad, which is associated with the elder Hakim.

Iraq's powerful Shi'ite Alliance has quickly recovered from the shock of the first split from the coalition and is reorganising its forces to ensure such defections are not repeated, insiders in the bloc say.

Alliance officials said they held an "important meeting" on Sunday attended by Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to discuss among other things the status of the Alliance after the small but influential Fadhila party broke away last week.

"It was a shock to see them leaving, but now we are over it and we think that it is for the better that they have left," said one senior Shi'ite Alliance official.

Other officials in the Alliance said the withdrawal of the Fadhila has brought the other parties in the coalition closer.

"The Fadhila has always opposed every decision the Alliance wants to take. It was causing problems, maybe it's better for everyone they left," a government Shi'ite source told Reuters.

Read the rest at Reuters/Alternet