Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Analysis: The Shi'ite power struggle escalates

Since the political bloc loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr abandoned Parliament and Iraqi government ministries on April 16 - in a move to demand that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki set a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops - the Sadrist movement now appears to be tilting toward a more militant stance, separated from the political process and, consequently, relying more on the influence of the Mehdi Army for control over the Shi'ite population.

This new development entails multiple factors, one of which is primarily an apparent increase in the level of rivalry between Shi'ite militias in the main urban centers in southern Iraq. The eruption of violence in the first week of April in the northern part of the predominately Shi'ite city of Diwaniya, which is the administrative center of al-Qadissiya province, underlines the escalation of competition for power among militia organizations, as followers of Muqtada lead the way to claim the mantle of Shi'ite leadership.

Unlike previous sporadic clashes in the city, which mainly occurred between Iraqi police and Ba'athist forces, the recent fighting testifies to a power struggle among Shi'ite groups in Diwaniya.

Read the rest at Asia Times