[Imc-beirut] MidEast Dispatches: Shias Too Lose Faith in Iraqi Govt
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Mon Dec 4 02:47:08 PST 2006
** Dahr Jamail's MidEast Dispatches **
** Visit the Dahr Jamail website http://dahrjamailiraq.com **
** Website by http://jeffpflueger.com **
Shias Too Lose Faith in Iraqi Govt
*Inter Press Service*
Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily
*BAGHDAD, Dec. 4 (IPS) - The noisy demonstration that greeted Iraqi
Prime Minister Noori al-Maliki on his visit to Sadr City last week was
more than just a protest. It meant that the leader of a Shia-dominated
government was being rejected by an angry and influential group of Shias.*
Maliki's heavily guarded convoy was pelted with stones and with shoes --
a grave insult in Iraq. And this happened in a Shia area.
About 60 percent of the 25 million population of Iraq is Shia, and Shia
leaders now dominate government. The government faces increasingly more
aggressive opposition from Sunni groups who feel persecuted.
Sunnis, an estimated five million, were the dominant group earlier under
the regime of Saddam Hussein. The rest of the Iraqi population is
Kurdish in the north. Kurds include both Shias and Sunnis, but stand
apart ethnically as Kurds.
Iraq is now a deeply divided Muslim world. Sectarian clashes between
Shia and Sunni groups have been growing by the day. Shias are a Muslim
group who believe - unlike the Sunnis -- that Prophet Muhammad
designated his nephew Imam Ali to lead the Islamic community after his
death. That old schism is now deepening.
Sunni insurgents are suspected in the bomb blasts that killed more than
200 in Sadr City. Noori al-Maliki had gone there to pay condolences to
the families of the car bomb victims. But he was abused as a traitor to
the cause of Shias.
"He and other Dawa party leaders did not keep the promises made to the
Sadr movement before the elections," a leader of Shia cleric Muqtada
al-Sadr's movement told IPS in Baghdad. Noori al-Maliki is from the Shia
Dawa party, but the Sadr group is far more influential among Shias in
"People are complaining that this government is not paying any attention
to them and their ruined city despite the huge contracts signed for
reconstruction," the Sadr leader said. "We believe that this government
is not suitable for leading the country, and we might withdraw support
to it if no major change is conducted."
Differences also arose between Maliki and the Sadr movement, on which he
depends heavily for political support, over his meeting with U.S.
President George W. Bush in Amman last week.
The Sadr movement has 30 MPs in the Iraqi government, and a withdrawal
could damage a government with little popular support.
The Mehdi Army, the armed wing of the Sadr group, has issued stern
warnings over the government's relations with the United States.
"America is our enemy, and Bush wants to save his chair and party at our
expense," Hussein al-Bahadly of the Mehdi Army told IPS. "The Amman
meeting was a conspiracy against the Shias, especially that King
Abdullah of Jordan was its godfather."
Both Iraqi and Iranian Shias consider King Abdullah of Jordan an enemy
because his father, King Hussein, supported Sunni-administered Iraq
during the Iraq-Iran war in the 1980s.
Disquiet is arising all around because the present Iraqi government is
losing support and so is the United States in its occupation of Iraq.
Recent news that Britain expects to withdraw its 7,000 troops from
southern Iraq by the end of next year is likely to bring further
frustration to the Iraqi government and the embattled Bush Administration.
Italy and Poland have already announced withdrawal of their remaining
These forces in the south are likely to be replaced by U.S. troops, who
are then likely to face increased attacks from the Mehdi Army, which has
already launched an uprising twice against occupation forces.
Further frustrating Washington is the recent visit to Tehran by Iraqi
President Jalal Talabani. Talabani is seeking help from Iran for
preventing Iraq's extreme violence from sliding into all-out civil war.
Much of western media already calls the violence in Iraq a civil war,
but many within the country remain reluctant to do so.
"Civil war as the media expresses is not yet a solid fact," professor of
political science at Baghdad University Zahiu Yassen told IPS. "The
violence is still within the limits of political conflict between ruling
parties, and all the killings are conducted by gangs hired by
politicians. No Iraqi has killed his neighbour for being Sunni or Shia,
but how long would people keep reason and patience?"
Shia death squads composed of members of the Mehdi Army and the Badr
Army, the armed wing of the Iran-backed Supreme Council for Islamic
Revolution in Iraq are responsible for much of the recent bloodshed in
the country. Sunni insurgents too have been hitting back.
It is widely believed that Shia militia groups are backed by senior Shia
leaders in the government and parliament.
(c)2006 Dahr Jamail.
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