Wednesday, February 19, 2014

He loves TV





Moqtada al-Sadr continues to dominate the news cycle.  The cleric and movement leader announced his political retirement Saturday.  Today, World Bulletin reports, "Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr laid into Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Tuesday, describing him as a 'dictator and tyrant' and calling his government 'a pack of wolves hungry for murder and money'."  AFP adds, "The televised speech seemed aimed at establishing the cleric, who leapt to prominence with his fierce criticism of the 2003 US-led invasion, as a figure above the everyday Iraqi political fray."   Aref Youssef (Anadolu Agency) notes, "Al-Sadr asserted that al-Maliki's government had failed to improve public services and the country's dire economic situation" and that he also accused the Nouri al-Maliki government of utilizing  "a politicized judiciary against its partners."  UPI quotes Moqtada stating, "Politics became a door for injustice and carelessness, and the abuse and humiliation of the rule of a dictator and tyrant who controls the funds, so he loots them and the cities, so he attacks them, and the sects, so he divides them."

Al Mada reports that Moqtada declared Nouri is controlled by both the US government and the Iranian government and that the country is governed by those who left the country and waited (years) for someone to liberate Iraq before returning to the country.  He encouraged Iraqis to participate in the planned April 30th parliamentary elections to have a say in their country and -- no English outlet's reporting this -- he endorsed two politicians: the Governor of Baghdad Ali al-Tamimi and the Governor of Maysan Ali al-Douai.  He called on both to continue their good work.  NINA reports:

The officer of public relations and ceremonies at the office of the leader of the Sadrist movement, Amer al-Husseini stressed that the decision of Mr. Muqtada al-Sadr is irreversible and his followers have to obey this matter without discussion or demonstration .
Al-Husseini statement came after he received dozens of protesters who came from Sadr City to ask their leader to reverse his decision, showing their support.
Husseini told the demonstrators outside the home of cleric Muqtada al- Sadr, "Muqtada al-Sadr appreciates you for coming and values your position and confirms that the decisions made must obey and he insists on it, for the benefit of the people and the nation, and you should not discuss or protest ."

Duraid Adnan (New York Times) reports:

In the speech, Mr. Sadr, 40, encouraged all Iraqis to participate in elections so that they would be represented fairly. He criticized the current government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, saying it was behaving like a dictatorship and was using the army against the people.
“Iraq is under a black cloud, bloodshed and wars, killing each other in the name of law and religion,” Mr. Sadr said, adding that the country had “no life, no agriculture, no industry, no services, no security and no peace.” 
He said that though the Maliki government had gained power promising to improve the lot of Iraq’s Shiite majority, which suffered under the long dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, it turned out to be “a group of wolves hungry for power and money, backed by the West and the East,” and that “politics became a door for injustice and carelessness.”

In addition to the reporting cited above, there's also a lot of nonsense and a lot of stupidity.  I'll be addressing an e-mail from an analyst in a second, he was so convinced I was so wrong.  And I need to thank him for that false accusation because his false accusation meant I was focused all day on the topic of wrong -- mine or others.

Karl Vick (Time magazine) is repeating something in this passage that is wrong

Waiting anxiously to know is Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is seeking a third term in elections set for April. Sadr’s support was essential to Maliki securing office in 2010, and the cleric’s loyal, motivated and generally impoverished Shiite following stands to play a crucial role in any political calculus, especially given the polarized sectarian politics that has returned parts of Iraq to open warfare. Much of Anbar province, to the West of Baghdad, is now controlled by Sunni militants associated with al-Qaeda, whose return flows both from the rabidly sectarian nature of the civil war in adjacent Syria, and from resentment among Iraqi Sunnis at Maliki’s rule, widely seen as favoring Shiites.

Karl Vick is 100% wrong.  In fairness, he's repeating something many said yesterday.  But it's flat out wrong.

Moqtada al-Sadr was strong armed into supporting Nouri -- strong armed by the Iranian government.  His followers never supported Nouri.

More than that, they clearly rejected him.

Does no one remember what happened in 2010?

For one thing, immediately after the elections Moqtada threw it to his supporters 'who he should back?'

Have we all forgotten that?

From the April 7, 2010 snapshot:

That interview took place Monday and while there is no coalition-sharing government/arrangement as yet from the March 7th elections, Friday and Saturday, another round of elections were held -- this to determine whom the Sadr bloc should back. Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc won 40 seats in the Parliament. Kadhim Ajrash and Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) report that Ibrahim al-Jaafari "won 24 percent of the 428,000 ballots cast in the internal referendum, ahead of al-Sadr's second cousin, Jafar Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, who obtained 23 percent, Sadrist spokesman Salah al-Ubaidi said today in the southern city of Najaf." Al Jazeera notes that Nouri al-Maliki received 10% of the vote and Ayad Allawi 9%. The US military invaded Iraq in March 2003 (and still hasn't left). Following the invasion, Ayad Allawi became Iraq's first prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari became the second and Nouri al-Maliki became the third. It's a little more complicated.
Nouri wasn't wanted, Nouri wasn't chosen. Following the December 2005 elections, coalition building took place and the choice for prime minister was al-Jaafari. But the US government refused to allow him to continue as prime minister. The Bush administration was adamant that he would not continue and faulted him for, among other things, delays in the privatization of Iraq's oil. Though the US had no Parliamentary vote, they got their way and Nouri became the prime minister. al-Jaafari had won the vote with the backing of al-Sadr's bloc, just as he won the vote that took place this weekend. The vote can be seen as (a) a show of support for al-Jaafari whom Sadarists have long supported and (b) a message to the US government. 

Stop lying that Nouri benefits from Moqtada dropping out.  He doesn't.

The Sadr bloc can't stand Nouri -- that's been obvious in Parliament for the last four years.

Moqtada's supporters can't stand Nouri either.  They remember his attacks on them in 2008 in Basra and Sadr City.  Moqtada is seen as supporting the poor, Nouri's done nothing for the poor.   BRussells Tribune carries an Al-Monitor article from last week by Amal Sakr which opens:

The head of the Model Iraqi Women Organization, Athraa Hassani, provided Al-Monitor with this information, quoting World Bank officials who discussed these statistics during a meeting in Turkey with a number of members of civil society organizations seeking to find a solution to the poverty crisis in Iraq.
Hassani questions the accuracy of the poverty rates announced by the Iraqi government, affirming that these rates are continuously increasing because of a rise in daily violence and spike in unemployment rates in addition to a weakening of the Iraqi economy.

Based on the World Bank’s figures, this would mean that out of Iraq’s 34.7 million citizens, more than 9.5 million individuals are living below the poverty line.

Nothing has happened since 2010 to increase Nouri's standing among Sadr supporters.  In fact, since 2010, the efforts Moqtada and Ayad Allawi have worked on have probably resulted in greater support for Allawi which has let Nouri fall even lower.  Probably.

But what is known is that Sadr supporters did not support Nouri in 2010.  They didn't support when the March 2010 voting took place and they did not support a month later in the poll Moqtada carried out.

I don't if it's xenophobia or stupidity.

Xenophobia may have some 'reporters' and 'analysts' declaring that Moqtada's supporters would automatically go to Nouri -- in some stupid and stereotypical vision of Shi'ites.

Or maybe it's just the sort of whoring Quil Lawrence did in 2010 where the press will repeatedly lie for Nouri.

But before Moqtada's speech today, his supporters were not going to back Nouri -- they made that clear in 2010 for any not too stupid to miss it -- and after his remarks today, it's even more obvious that they won't support Nouri.

The editorial board of The National are just another example of people who don't know what they're talking about:

And yet despite Mr Al Sadr’s violent past and erratic politics, his departure is bad for Iraqi politics and bad for Iraq. That’s because his Sadrist movement was the one Shia movement that could challenge prime minister Nouri Al Maliki for the votes of the majority Shia community. With two Shia parties fighting for influence, there was always an opportunity for one of them to reach out to the Sunni community, in order to gain more votes.
But with Mr Al Sadr gone, his movement will be severely weakened, leaving Mr Al Maliki’s State of Law party as the main political group for the Shia.

No, that's stupidity.

Moqtada did and does challenge Nouri.  But that's all that's true there.  Moqtada's 40 seats in Parliament matter.  But Ibrahaim al-Jaafari's National Alliance got more seats in Parliament.  They received 70.  Iraqiya won with 91 seats and Nouri got 89.

Iraqiya won't be running in the 2014 elections, it's splintered.  It did not just get Sunni votes in 2010.  It also got Shi'ite votes -- it was a non-sectarian list of Shi'ite politicians (Ayad Allawi) and Sunnis (Osama al-Nujafi).  Nouri's war against Iraqiya makes it very unlikely the Shi'ite voters of Iraqiya will now glom to him.

Ammar al-Hakim is the leader of the Shi'ite bloc Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (they're a part of Ibrahiam's National Alliance).  He's been a rising star of the last three years to many analysts (who apparently have now lost their voices).  He's been seen, by Western analysts, as the less criminal Moqtada.  (I'm not calling Moqtada a criminal, I'm noting he's seen as that by some.)  His increased popularity could benefit the National Alliance and Moqtada's departure might make that more likely.

I don't know what's going to happen.  I do know State of Law performed poorly in the 2013 parliamentary elections which indicates problems.  I do know Nouri's own image has taken a hit and his popularity dropped.  I do know that it is extremely stupid to assume Sadr supporters would embrace Nouri.

Those are the knows which can be backed up.

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