Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki seems to have secured his second term in office only by successfully courting Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and, by extension, the Iraqi National Alliance. But Maliki’s allies worry that Sadr’s inclusion could be harmful over the long term.
“We gave our votes to Maliki and he stole them and gave them to the criminals,” declared one opponent of Sadr’s inclusion in the government, while others said it was Maliki’s historical rivalry with Sadr that had convinced them to support him in the first place.
The alliance could also have consequences overseas, some warn. Though the Maliki-Sadr alliance was the favorite choice for Iran, most of Iraq’s Sunni neighbors are likely to be concerned by the new alliance and its pledges to give the Shi’ite clergy virtual power to issue laws by edict. Sadr’s historical opposition to the US occupation is also certain to become an issue somewhere down the road, particularly as the Obama Administration mulls keeping troops in Iraq beyond the 2011 deadline.
The deal may be a costly one for Maliki, but it is the only thing that could keep him in office after a miserable showing in March’s election. The fact that he managed to do so is likely to not sit will with Iraq’s Sunni minority, which came out in force to back the secularist Iraqiya bloc, which won the eleciton but seems destined to either face an opposition role or accept a position as a minor partner to Maliki.
It signal’s Sadr’s graduation, however, from rabble rouser to political power player. His normally tiny political bloc now holds tremendous sway, and while it may not sit well with his new allies it is an undeniable fact of Iraqi politics.