Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 14, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

IRAQI POLITICS....Yesterday the Iraqi government bundled together three different laws and passed them as a package by consensus rather than by voice vote. The three laws are the annual budget, an amnesty for (mostly) Sunni Arab prisoners, and a law setting a date for provincial elections. Juan Cole comments on the electoral realities behind all this:

The setting of a date for provincial elections is extremely important. I have argued that elections in the Sunni Arab-dominated provinces are a necessity for calming Iraq. Diyala, for instance, is 60% Sunni Arab but is ruled by the pro-Iranian Shiite party, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq....It will be easier for the US to turn over security duties to elected provincial authorities who have the backing of significant numbers of Sunni Arabs, and so the elections could pave the way to a US drawdown in those provinces.

One reason that the provincial elections have been delayed is that there are fears in Baghdad that the Sadr Movement of Muqtada al-Sadr will sweep to power in the Shiite south. It from all accounts has gained in popularity as the current dominant provincial party there, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, has become much less popular. (ISCI has been trying to run many of the southern Shiite provinces, but has not been able to provide security and services at the level desired by local people). Presumably one reason for bundling the law of the provinces with the amnesty law was to make Sadrist MPs vote for the package. They did not want to grant amnesty to Sunni Arab prisoners, but only by supporting this step could they get a date certain for provincial elections, which they think they will largely win.

The elections are set for October 1st. If the Sadrists win, will ISCI cede power to them in the south? Or will they figure out a way to keep the Sadrists from winning in the first place? Stay tuned.

Kevin Drum 12:10 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (12)

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Drum:If the Sadrists win, will ISCI cede power to them in the south?

I believe that, in Iraq, the term "holding power" is better understood as having access to AK-47's and the line more than as holding various elective offices.

Posted by: Duncan Kinder on February 14, 2008 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdti Army ceasefire is over at the end of February. What the Bush propagandists fail to mention is that this cease-fire has helped quell the violence in Iraq and helps support the illusion that the “surge” has been a success. When the cease fire ends, we could see a level of violence greater than ever before. The best thing for President Obama to do will be to pull out of this illegal quagmire of an occupation immediately and put George W. Bush and most of his cabinet on trial for war crimes.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on February 14, 2008 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

The Amnesty will provide a lot of recurits for the Sunni militias, so they'll be stronger. If Moqtada decides not to extend the cease fire, there's going to be a whole lot of shooting going on. And it's going to happen a whole lot sooner than President Obama will take office. The choice for Bush will be to draw down or re-surge. Bush's approval will be getting close to single digits.

Posted by: tomeck on February 14, 2008 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

Off-topic: I think we should have some Valentine's Day catblogging.

Posted by: Mazurka on February 14, 2008 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

Looks like we have more political progress in Iraq. That's good, right?

Posted by: Brian on February 14, 2008 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

Tehran switched its backing from Sadr to ISCI some time ago; to the degree they still try to influence the Mehdi Army, Iran supports just rogue elements.

So, the election issue could have at least as many larger-base ramifications in Shi'ite areas than what Cole mentions in Sunni areas.

Irony alert: Bush's best strategic move would be to back Moqtada al-Sadr.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on February 14, 2008 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

the Sadr Movement of Muqtada al-Sadr will sweep to power in the Shiite south

Finally, some good political news from Iraq.

Posted by: Brojo on February 14, 2008 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK
Tehran switched its backing from Sadr to ISCI some time ago

Using "switched" in this setting seems to buy into the mistaken idea that Tehran was only backing Sadr in the first place. Tehran has had ties to all kinds of groups in Iraq since before the US invasion, and was the major sponsor (indeed, arguably, the creator) of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) from its inception during the Iran-Iraq war. SCIRI, of course, changed its name last year to drop the "revolution" and become ISCI.

Tehran was also a sponsor of the Sadrist movement, but from its founding SCIRI, not the Sadrist movement, was the primary vehicle for Iranian efforts in Iraq.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 14, 2008 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

CM, I’ll stand behind the word “switched.”

Per this AP story :

Iran (pledged) to stop backing the Mahdi Army in return for the Bush administration lowering its rhetoric about Iran's nuclear program. …

On the second front, Iran has shunned the Mahdi Army, but has continued sending arms, fighters and money into Iraq. The leaders of these groups of fighters take orders from Iran and are known as the Ettelaat, shorthand for Iranian intelligence. …

On the second front, Iran has shunned the Mahdi Army, but has continued sending arms, fighters and money into Iraq. The leaders of these groups of fighters take orders from Iran and are known as the Ettelaat, shorthand for Iranian intelligence.
Seems like “switching” to me, or something quite similar.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on February 14, 2008 at 5:44 PM | PERMALINK
CM, I’ll stand behind the word “switched.”

That excerpt you provide to support it does not; particularly, it does not address the point I raise, that Iran has been supporting ISCI (formerly SCIRI) ever since the day it created it, so it can't have "switched" its support to it since it has always been supporting it.

Whehter Iran may have reduced its support to the Sadrists is simply immaterial to the objection I raised to your suggestion that it has "switched" to supporting ISCI.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 14, 2008 at 7:27 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, CM... copied the wrong link; try this. (I know Roger Clemens has little to do with Iraq.)

I also accidentally double-pasted one graf of my quote from that story, and forgot the closing blockquote:

Iran (pledged) to stop backing the Mahdi Army in return for the Bush administration lowering its rhetoric about Iran's nuclear program. …

On the second front, Iran has shunned the Mahdi Army, but has continued sending arms, fighters and money into Iraq. The leaders of these groups of fighters take orders from Iran and are known as the Ettelaat, shorthand for Iranian intelligence. …

Politically, Iran has now cut ties with al-Sadr, having decided his usefulness as a tactical tool against American forces has run its course. Now, the officials said, Iran has thrown its full backing behind the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council of Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, the country's most powerful Shiite political insider.
There, with the last graf I dropped before.

"Full backing," especially combined with "cut ties," is a "switch." THAT correctly said this time, I stand by what I said in my original post.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on February 14, 2008 at 11:54 PM | PERMALINK

Some really bad news from the Asia Times. Has anyone been reading about the oil situation in Iraq now? Maybe I just haven't been keeping up, but it looks like Bush is about to win the oil battle in Iraq, the long-awaited control of Iraqi oil is taking shape:

The Door To Iraq's Oil Opens

Posted by: nepeta on February 15, 2008 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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