In Baker Report's Wake, Factions Move to Sideline Moqtada al-Sadr

In the aftermath of the Baker-Hamilton report RealVideo, it seems that Iraq’s politicians are working overtime to show they are responding to American demands that Iraqis put their house in order, although senior Iraqi politicians and rebel leaders fighting American forces have both rejected the report’s findings.

Nevertheless, Iraqi leaders have apparently decided to act to head off pressure from the American occupiers for drastic change. Azzaman has learned that a number of major Iraqi factions are preparing to enter into a new coalition to force Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki into a major cabinet reshuffle.

Major Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni factions would like to come together to exclude the powerful parliamentary block of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, on whose support the current government’s survival depends.

Analysts say that the move will be announced shortly after U.S. President George Bush makes public his new Iraq policy. But the exclusion of al-Sadr’s faction or any major faction – or the formation of any new alliance – is bound to further exacerbate violence and chaos in the country.

Sadr controls one of Iraq’s most powerful militias. Known as the Mahdi Army, the militia has easily defeated Iraqi forces at a number of encounters in southern Iraq. They have also mounted two major uprisings against American forces, which have been unable to contain the rising power of the group and its influence in Baghdad, oil-rich Kirkuk and most of southern Iraq.

Unless the issue of armed resistance groups and Iraq’s neighbors, namely Iran, are addressed and included, analysts doubt the likelihood that any policy to address the spiraling chaos will succeed.

But the United States doesn’t seem interested in direct talks with Iran and Syria. On the contrary, it is ratcheting up the pressure on these governments and at the same time, is asking them to help it win the war in Iraq.

Iraqi analysts described this policy as “childish and stupid.”

One analyst said, “No country and no group will help the United States escape its Iraqi quagmire for free. There must be incentives.”

It isn’t clear if the parties to the new coalition will be willing to boost the powers of the central government, since they themselves have their own powerful militias that are better armed than Iraqi government troops.

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