Reports floating around the media today of an arrest warrant against highly influential Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr have added to the tense environment as three Shi’ite blocs vie for votes in this weekend’s election.
The Associated Press has reported that it obtained a new arrest warrant from the Iraqi government naming Sadr and 13 others as wanted in the 2003 killing of another Shi’ite cleric.
The Maliki government has denied that such a warrant exists, and claims that Sadr’s political bloc made it up for “political” purposes. Sadr bloc leader Salah al-Obeidi likewise accused Maliki of making up the arrest warrant and the subsequent denial to sew uncertainty ahead of the vote.
Maliki is hoping to win re-election against stiff competition from two other Shi’ite blocs. Sadr’s bloc, once seen as a minor partner to the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), is actually polling enormously well and could wrest control of the faction away from the SIIC entirely in the vote. If that happens and the bloc manages to form the next government it would leave Sadr, an outspoken critic of the US occupation, in charge of picking the nation’s next Prime Minister.