High profile Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has issued a statement today angrily condemning Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and accusing him of “building a new dictatorship,” citing the arrests and “liquidation” of media critics and the issuance of an arrest warrant against rival MP Sabah al-Saadi.
The statement went on to say that Iraq didn’t need “Saddam or clashes” and that Maliki should try to build his government coalition on partnership, adding that the effort to arrest Saadi had “annoyed” MPs within Sadr’s faction.
Saadi had accused Maliki of playing a role in the fabrication of stories critical of the Sadr-led Iraqi National Alliance (INA), and had called Maliki a dictator. He is charged with “insulting the government and insults against the prime minister,” charges which the Maliki government insisted could not be challenged.
Sadr’s comments show a growing discontent among the “partners” in Maliki’s coalition government, and his wording seemed designed to dare the Maliki government to treat him like he treated Saadi. Considering Sadr’s massive popular support, this is something he simply cannot do.