Sunday, May 27, 2007

Perspective: As Maliki's power fades, Shiite politics in play

Left: Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, Grand Ayatollah Sistani, and Moqtada al-Sadr.

Post-Baathist Iraqi politics is undergoing a dramatic change, and the Sadrists and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), formerly known as the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), are leading the way by bringing a major shift in the balance of power. With the gradual decomposition of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's National Unity Government, mainly dominated by Shiite and Kurdish parties, Iraq is entering a new political era. As splintered political factions, such as the Sadrists, seek to form a new coalition made up of Sunni parties, formerly exiled Shiite groups like Da'wa and the SIIC are facing new challenges in maintaining a dominant political bloc in Baghdad. Moqtada al-Sadr's call to create a "reform and reconciliation project," which would also include Sunnis, is a radical departure from his sectarian base which was formed with the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) and under the spiritual leadership of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in 2004 (al-Hayat, May 8). In addition, al-Sadr's move is a direct challenge to his main Shiite rival, the SIIC, which has posed the most serious threat to al-Sadr's political prestige and leadership in Iraq since 2003. For the most part, limited political mobility in the UIA and the al-Maliki government itself were the sources of frustration for the Sadrists, and most of the blame was directed at the SIIC for its political tactics to tame the Sadrist movement in the government.

Read the rest at the Jamestown Monitor