For the first seven months after Iraq’s March election, the Obama Administration had insisted that they would not interfere in the political process and that they only wanted some coalition, any coalition, to emerge as quickly as possible. Though it was clear that the administration favored a Maliki-Allawi partnership, they did not appear to oppose any pairing outright.
Now, with long-time American favorite Nouri al-Maliki having incredibly managed to snatch another term in office from an electoral defeat in March, the administration is said to be chiming in, demanding that Maliki oust anti-US cleric Moqtada al-Sadr from his coalition.
Which is an enormous imposition, given that Sadr’s supporters had such a strong showing in the election that they managed to seize control over the Iraqi National Alliance from the Supreme Islamic Council, and it was Sadr more than anyone else who made the current coalition possible.
Moreover, if Maliki obeys the US and ousts Sadr, it isn’t clear that he will have a coalition at all anymore, or at the very least not one capable of forming a government. Maliki’s bloc finished second in the vote to rival Ayad Allawi’s Iraqiya bloc, and it was only through Sadr’s participation that he had any chance at a second term in office.
Any majority coalition government in Iraq required the participation of two of the three major blocs, and each side had its foreign advocate, with the Obama Administration supporting the Maliki-Allawi pairing, Syria supporting an Allawi-Sadr pairing, and Iran supporting the Maliki-Sadr pairing that ultimately won out. Maliki may risk a lot in forming a coalition overtly opposed by the US, which is still occupying the nation, but he might be risking even more to expel Sadr after a deal has been made for a coalition which would strengthen the Shi’ite clergy, a move that is supported both by his key allies in Iran and by a large portion of Maliki’s own constituency.