Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Al Sadr's Group has Quit the Government (updated)

According to The Washington Post, a bloc of Iraqi MP's led by Muqtada al-Sadr has quit the government in protest to PM Maliki's meeting with President Bush in Jordan. Al Sadr had threatened as much last week though he later modified his statement to say that his party would "suspend" participation in the government. Not clear if the WaPo is accurate here.

update: AP is reporting that al Sadr's bloc has in fact only suspended participation in Maliki's government.
and again...: The WaPo has completely changed the article to reflect the postponement of the summit and now correctly mentions that Sadr's block has only suspended its participation.

Either way any dissent at this scale can only mean trouble for the stability of Maliki's government as it relies quite strongly on the support of al Sadr. And as I mentioned in an earlier post, al Sadr is becoming only more powerful due to his increasing popularity among Iraqis across the country. What's more, his military might has grown considerably, becoming more effective than the government's own forces. I am surprised this has not gained more attention in the media- I found this fact buried in a WaPo article about Kofi Annan- but apparently in the last year, al Sadr's army has grown eight-fold to about 50,000 men! The Iraq army currently stands at 134,000, however half are on stationary guard duty, and
according to Iraqi officials, of the half that conduct combat operations, only 10 battalions- about 9,500 men- are at all effective. The U.S. will have quite a tough time of dismantling Iraq's militias with military force alone, with or without the help of the Iraqi army.

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