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Monday, April 7, 2008

Did Sadr Blink?

The description of the operation in Basrah by the media has ranged from uneven to an unmitigated disaster. Despite that description, the latest word indicates that it may just be Sadr that will wind up blinking. Here is the word from Reuters.

other top Shiite clerics in the holy city of Najaf if the government continues to pressure him to disband the militia.

Al-Zarqani said in a telephone interview that al-Sadr "will obey" if al-Sistani, the highest Shiite authority in Iraq, and the other clerics recommend that he do so.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, in an interview Sunday with CNN, issued his strongest warning yet to al-Sadr to disband his militia or face political isolation.

He said al-Sadr's followers would not be allowed "to participate in the political process or take part in upcoming elections unless they end the Mahdi Army."

He was referring to provincial elections expected in the fall that are likely to redistribute power in Iraq. The Sadrists have accused al-Maliki's government and rival parties of trying to diminish their standing ahead of the vote.

If this is accurate, and of course that is a huge if, this will have monumental repercussions for Iraq and the region. If Maliki can stand up to Sadr and win, that will go a very long toward giving him legitimacy beyond the divisive and factional figure that is currently his image. If Sadr's milita steps down, it will be a huge blow to the Shia militia at the same time that AQI and other Sunni militias are taking a huge hit themselves.

Obviously, this would be a huge part of the necessary political reconciliation that everyone is looking for. Of course, we must all be weary of any reports from the region as many turn out to be untrue or misleading. The situation remains fluid and we will track it.

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