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Given the combination of SIIC leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim’s [wiki] absence from the Shia political scene, the training Sadr received in Iran, and the timing Tehran chose for his return, Moqtada al-Sadr has obviously returned strong. Strong enough to summon seven Iraqi governors to meet him and listen to his instructions about how they should run their respective provinces in central and southern Iraq at the same time his militiamen were fighting the police forces of at least one of those provinces.
In the speech Sadr made at that meeting he called for the peaceful coexistence and cooperation of the police and army on one side, and the Mahdi Army on the other.
Setting aside the fact that endorsing an armed outlaw militia is a brazen violation of the constitution and criminal law (militias that existed prior to OIF are something of a different case, though they too remain constitutionally unacceptable), the meeting sets a dangerous precedent. Sadr is presenting himself as a head of state, leading senior state officials to his meeting like sheep, and challenging the power of the legitimate leaders of the country.
Maliki reacted quickly and gathered the governors around his table in an attempt to minimize Sadr’s influence, and ordered the governors to cleanse their security forces of any elements whose loyalties lie outside of the Iraqi government. It remains unclear which man made a bigger impact. And it remains painfully disappointing that no one in the government did anything to condemn Sadr’s move, or publicly denounce his undermining of the structure of the state.
It’s become clear now that Iraq will not become a successful state when such violations of the law can happen in the open and remain unchecked. Confronting Sadr’s militia with limited operations is not enough—it’s time to deal with him seriously. ...
Omar Fadhil at PJM: