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Sunday, December 24, 2006

So, your little coup is coming apart

The next president of Iraq

Plan to isolate al-Sadr finds little support among Iraqis
By Hannah Allam
McClatchy Newspapers

BAGHDAD, Iraq - An American-led initiative to sideline militant cleric Muqtada al-Sadr by bolstering support for his political rivals has gained little traction here and may even have strengthened al-Sadr's hand, according to interviews Friday with several Iraqi politicians and clerics involved in the talks.

The effort to assemble a political bloc of so-called moderates to counter al-Sadr's growing influence was one of the recommendations National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley made in a secret White House memo that was leaked last month. U.S. officials hope such a coalition would ease Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's dependence on support from al-Sadr, whose followers, U.S. officials say, are responsible for much of the violence now convulsing Baghdad.

But few Iraqi politicians have been willing to go along with the plan, which was riddled with problems from the onset, Iraqi officials said. U.S. backing for a new coalition has allowed al-Sadr to portray his opponents as American lackeys, they added.

"This idea was a non-starter," said Haider Abadi, a lawmaker and senior member of al-Maliki's Islamic Dawa Party. "The U.S. administration is under pressure. They want to win public opinion by showing some form of progress, without knowing the situation on the ground. . . . It caused more problems than it solved."

The proposal to form a moderate contingent has been under discussion for months, but took on new urgency with the release of the Hadley memo, in which he suggested that the United States help form "a new political base among moderate politicians from Sunni, Shia, Kurdish and other communities."

Only five groups were to be included in the bloc: the Dawa Party, the Iranian-backed Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), the two leading Kurdish factions, and the Iraqi Islamic Party, which is Iraq's largest Sunni party.

Leaders from three of the five parties - SCIRI's head, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim; al-Maliki, a member of the Dawa Party; and Tareq al-Hashemi, Iraq's vice president and a member of the Iraqi Islamic Party - have met with President Bush in recent weeks.

Since those meetings, however, even politicians who initially supported the effort have distanced themselves, mindful of crossing the powerful and popular Sadr or incurring the wrath of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraq's highest-ranking Shiite cleric, who has withheld comment on the proposal.

Ah, yes, a plot to go after Sadr discussed in public. Bound to succeed.

What was that about sending Sadr into exile or shoving him aside?

Maybe Hakim should have stopped those Sunni death squads, instead of leaving that to the Mahdi Army

posted by Steve @ 6:01:00 PM

6:01:00 PM

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