Iraqi Government Teetering Towards Collapse.
The incapacity of the US and Iraqi security forces to deliver on boasts of curbing violence has led to threats from moderate coalition partners to resign from the government. The continued ability of Sunni insurgents to carry out atrocities and spectacular killings, and the outrageous sectarian responses by Maliki in refuting recent rapes and denouncing raids on government linked murder and torture cells, has provoked a key coalition partner to threaten to pull out of the government.
The moderate, secular Iraqi National List, led by the former Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi has now complained that Maliki was pursuing a sectarian agenda. By threatening to withdraw, the government's slender majority becomes unworkable. Maliki's own "Dawa" party, traditionally a militant Shiite group, has a mere 13 of the 275 seats in parliament and to stay in power, relies mostly on the support of other even more radical Shiite groups such as the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and the Mehdi Army's Sadrist Movement.
But now Maliki is also having the thumbscrews turned by the US as well, who want him to throw Muqtada al-Sadr's representatives out of the cabinet and jettison the support of all parties with paramilitary links. The problem is nearly all parties have their own militias, including Maliki's, which has received proven shipments of arms from Iran! How Maliki will manage to do this is not quite clear. Indeed, on Sunday, he was boasting of arresting anybody who opposed him and there was talk of prosecuting up to 100 prominent figures.
This threat obviously includes Muqtada al-Sadr, who for the second weekend in a row has begun to voice a change in his earlier conciliatory and cooperative stance towards the US crackdown. On Saturday, he rejected that there was any negotiated agreement for the US to carry out operations in Sadr city. "There are no negotiations with the occupation forces, not before and not later," he said. On top of this city civic leaders issued a statement urging US troops to withdraw as soon as possible and calling on all US troops to publicly join Islam. This last act is especially important, because before attacking an infidel enemy the Koran strictly states that they must be offered the opportunity to convert. Only then can the next step of issuing a Fatwah be taken and a holy jihad commenced. As a senior Muslim cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr has the power to do this and should he be planning to take on the Americans at some point, this is how he must play the rules.
Things have been even more complicated by the US demanding that Maliki should now form an alliances with moderate Sunnis. Not to be beaten, on Sunday, Maliki, actually went so far as to call on former Baathist leaders of Saddam Hussein's regime to join his government!
If this is US policy, then yet again, the Bush Administration and Army command is showing its total incapacity to understand simple thought processes, let alone the basic laws of cause and effect and straightforward common sense. Even if circumstances were stable, such a coalition could only hope to last minutes, whereas in the present situation milliseconds are more likely.
How is Maliki is supposed somehow to welcome Baathists considered responsible for hundreds of thousands of Shiite and Kurdish deaths under the Saddam regime plus the current sectarian killings of Shiites, while at the same time disbanding the only organizations which are seen to have been defending the Shiite community against Sunni insurgents!?
Support for the Maliki government is fragile at best, now any residue of credit will be eaten up. If any policy is likely to throw the Shiite masses into the hands of the Mehdi Army and increase demands for it to regroup, then this is it.
On the Sunni side too, the US hopes of isolating the radical elements by incorporating Baathists and Nationalists would be short lived. Real Sunni influence in such a government will be minimal and they will expose themselves as US sycophants and enablers of a Shiite government. It will just open possibilities for Al Qaeda to fill a new vacuum by recruiting from the rank and file of Baathist and nationalist insurgents, who will see their leaders as selling out.
In weeks there could be no elected government at all in Iraq. There is much talk of the US organizing a coup and installing a "hard man" dictatorship at the helm. Such a puppet government would have even less credibility than the present marionettes. Moreover, the threadbare legitimacy of the US would disappear entirely. They would be seen purely and simply as illegitimate occupiers, without a mandate and acting only in the interests of the United States. Hopefully, this might help in turning the insurgency into a clearer war of national liberation and internal revolution.