Tuesday, May 22, 2007
get me out of here, i hate it here:
Via Slogger, Saleh Mutlak -- ex-Baathist leader of the smaller, harder-line Sunni parliamentary bloc, the National Dialogue Front -- says the political process is nearing its midnight hour:
Interviewer: This means that what you are doing is opposing a legitimate government?

Saleh al-Mutlak: This is true, we give them legitimacy, and we know that well. And we asked this of the currents that are near to us in our nationalist line, that they not participate in the Parliament or the government after we saw how the results of the elections were forged. But we were unable to convince them -- especially the Tawafuq Front –- of this position, even today.

We seek at the current time to convince the currents who are near to us to withdraw collectively from the Parliament, because the withdrawal of the Dialogue Front alone will not be influential, especially since we only have 11 members in the Parliament. Rather, our withdrawal could be heartening to others. But this does not meant that we have shut the door on withdrawal, but we have taken measures with the goal of pressuring the other powers to withdraw. In this period, we are practicing an approach of persuasion and mutual understanding, with the goal of bringing down the political process, and to concentrate pressure from the street on them.

Interviewer: The word “withdrawal” has been heard in more than one place, but it has not been spoken to the government or the occupation forces?

Saleh al-Mutlak: Most unfortunately, this is what is happening, such that it’s become the brandishing of withdrawal without meaning, and therefore we had appealed to our brothers in Tawafuq, and specifically in the Islamic Party to apply their threat, otherwise the Iraqi street is fated for frustration.

And they (i.e. Tawafuq Front and the Islamic Party) are in an unenviable position, ultimately, for if we leave behind the dossiers that we are calling for, the test of the constitution still remains in front of the Islamic Party. This subject (of the constitution) is supposed to be decided today, not tomorrow. Specifically, the legal period, set out in the constitution for amending it ended in the middle of this month. So when they couldn’t reach an agreement, they extended it, in a clear constitutional breach. And yet this isn’t the first time that the constitution is violated, but rather it is violated whenever they want to violate it. I believe that it will remain violated because it is not a sound constitution.

And here, the Islamic Party specifically, and the Tawafuq Front especially, are in an acute test, for if the constitution continues without essential amendments, I believe the Iraqi street will interpret this with strong response, because they (Tawafuq Front, Islamic Party) are the ones who promised the street that that they would work to change the constitution according to Article 142, and for this reason they asked the Iraqis to vote yes on the constitution, in the hope of changing it. And if they are not able to change it, and if the country will fall into catastrophe, they are the ones who caused it. Therefore they could withdraw (from the political process) over this matter specifically.

Tariq al-Hashemi's flirtation with abandoning the parliament invited Mutlak's attempt to outflank him with a harder line. The Sunnis threaten withdrawal all the time, so we'll see if this latest venture is anything more substantive. But it's little wonder that, according to David Ignatius, many in the Bush administration are abandoning the idea that they can compel Iraqi reconciliation.

Interestingly, here's what Mutlak has to say about Moqtada Sadr's recent outreach to the Sunnis:
Interviewer: Where does the Sadrist current stand today in Iraq?

Saleh al-Mutlak: The Sadrist current has taken some apparently good positions, and if it were possible to interpret them as becoming part of a real initial policy that it is committed to, and if it tries to be rid of its militias, and becomes a part of the nationalist current, then I believe that it is possible for it to do something fruitful for Iraq.

However, if it continues in this policy that oscillates, one time taking positions on the right, and another time taking positions on the left . . . . The problem is that the mob aspect is overrunning it today, and if it continues in this way, it will not be possible to present an influential status in Iraq.

Cautious, noncommittal, not exactly trusting. In essence, he's waiting for Sadr to make some dramatic gesture, especially as he ascribes the worst sectarian abuses of the Sadrists to "the mob aspect" and not Sadr himself.
--Spencer Ackerman
In essence, he's waiting for Sadr to make some dramatic gesture...

Yeah, like:

...if [the Sadr Movement] tries to be rid of its militias...

Which I'm sure is gonna happen soon. Maybe in a FU?

Which is why any such alliance will be, at best, short lived and limited to a very discrete set of goals. Even then, though, it will be more of two factions pushing in the same direction than a true "alliance."
Blogger Eric Martin | 8:10 AM

Sure. But I wouldn't discount the importance of alliances of convenience: they provide good barometric indicators of popular sentiment, if nothing else. If the "very discrete set of goals" such an alliance desires includes, say, the extirpation of al-Qaeda, the withdrawal of U.S. forces and the end of the sectarian war, then that's pretty significant. In Iraq, I saw simultaneous frustration with the government and with the rampant sectarianism.

Maybe an alliance of the more-extreme factions pledging unity, sovereignty and anti-terrorism would be something the populace could rally behind. Who knows what agenda would follow after such a platform, but given that politics has disappointed many if not most Iraqis, perhaps papering over the deeper problems will be attractive to the Sadrists and the more-radical Sunnis.

Not that there's much in the way of solid evidence as of yet that such a turn of events will happen.
Blogger Spencer Ackerman | 9:54 AM

Not that I disagree with your assessment of the outcome of such a thing as this:

If the "very discrete set of goals" such an alliance desires includes, say, the extirpation of al-Qaeda, the withdrawal of U.S. forces and the end of the sectarian war, then that's pretty significant.

It's just that I'm more skeptical about the antecedent.

These groups could meet and greet on the anti-AQ and anti-US side of the fence, but ending the sectarian war?

That's a bridge too far. At best, we can hope that they agree to suspend activities while they take care of AQ and...us. But after they're done with that, it's "game-on."

And even then, that's assuming all factions can be controlled such that various extreme elements in each camp can't play spoiler by setting off a well placed bomb every now and again.

But Spencer, I respect your attempt to find something positive or encouraging to work with. I'm with you on that, even if I sound like a tired old cynic.
Blogger Eric Martin | 3:33 PM

I think Sadr would sincerely like to form a coalition with Sunni nationalist factions opposed to the occupation and the Maliki government.

Mutlak is right though, Sadr apparently has a hard time controlling his huge mob. But it should also be noted that while Sadr's people are blamed for most of the sectarian attacks on Sunnis it could be anybody. SIIC, DA'WA or
just local tribal or criminal gangs
taking revenge, staking out territory, or even private contractors doing the bidding of the coalition trying to make Sadr look bad.
Blogger markg8 | 10:32 AM