Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The New New Way Forward

Gonna (try to) Isolate Al-Sadr

From the NYT:

BAGHDAD, Dec. 11 — After discussions with the Bush administration, several of Iraq’s major political parties are in talks to form a coalition whose aim is to break the powerful influence of the radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr within the government, senior Iraqi officials say.


Officials involved in the talks say their aim is not to undermine Mr. Maliki, but to isolate Mr. Sadr as well as firebrand Sunni Arab politicians inside the government. Mr. Sadr controls a militia with an estimated 60,000 fighters that has rebelled twice against the American military and is accused of widening the sectarian war with reprisal killings of Sunni Arabs.

The Americans, frustrated with Mr. Maliki’s political dependence on Mr. Sadr, appear to be working hard to help build the new coalition. President Bush met last week in the White House with Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of the Iranian-backed Shiite party, and is to meet on Tuesday with Tariq al-Hashemi, leader of the Sunni Arab party. In late November, Mr. Bush and his top aides met with leaders from Sunni countries in the Middle East to urge them to press moderate Sunni Arab Iraqis to support Mr. Maliki.

Probably too little, too late. And I wonder what sort of popular support these other parties have. And those 60,000 fighters sound like quite an obstacle for any new coalition still lacking soldiers willing to fight. And then of course, Sadr is just another Shiite. There's the Sunni insurgency still out there as well. Who's their leader or leaders?

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