Aides to anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr said Sunday that although his movement will not field an official slate of Sadrist candidates in upcoming elections, it could support individual Sadrists running for office.
The strategy could be a way for Sadr to influence the provincial elections this fall despite moves by the Iraqi government to ban his movement from participating.
Sadrist leaders sought to modify statements made a day earlier that the movement would not take part in the local contests. They had previously said only that the movement would support slates of "technocrats and independent politicians," but on Sunday they said those candidates could well be Sadrists.
"If any Sadrist wants to participate in any one of those lists of the technocrats, we give him the permission to do it," said Salah al-Obaidi, Sadr's chief spokesman. "But we will not participate in the elections by putting our people on a list with a Sadrist title."
The above is from Amit R. Paley's "Aides to Sadr Refine Stance On Elections" (Washington Post) and Lloyd noted it. Ned Parker and Raheem Salman's "Iraq: Sadr's party says it won't stand in elections" (Los Angeles Times) also covers al-Sadr and emphasizes the upcoming elections:
The Sadr movement, with a few exceptions, did not participate in provincial elections in January 2005. In the coming round, scheduled for fall, it had been expected to do well and perhaps best its main Shiite political rivals, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council and the Islamic Dawa Party.
However, Sadr loyalists have charged that a spring military campaign in Basra, ordered by Prime Minister Nouri Maliki of the Dawa Party, was an effort to damage their movement's ability to successfully compete in the fall vote.
The Iraqi parliament has yet to pass an electoral law, and the stalemate could delay balloting. The parliament is divided on whether candidates should compete individually or on party lists, and over whether the law should ban parties with militias from competing. Maliki has been pushing for the ban in what has been widely interpreted as a move against Sadr.
Sadr, whose Mahdi Army fighters have periodically battled with U.S. and Iraqi government forces, has taken steps in recent days to improve his militia's image. On Friday, the cleric announced that most of his militia members would put down their weapons and that only an elite wing would remain armed for fighting U.S.-led forces.
Observers said Sadr was playing his cards carefully in what could very well be the start of a major drawdown of American forces in Iraq in the fall.
Meanwhile AP notes that the president of Iraq, Jalal Talabani, is in the US and will receive treatment at the Mayo Clinic. A brief mention is made of the fact that this is not his first visit or that moments after leaving last time, he was spotted gorging on fatty foods in public. (And "gorging" is putting it mildly.) He's 73-years-old and really can eat whatever he wants -- if he steps down as president. But while he's president (or 'president') of an occupied country, there's really no point in treating him if he's going to completely ignore doctors' orders and it's not as if the average Iraqi is going to be flown to the Mayo Clinic.
In the New York Times, Alissa J. Rubin and Suadad al-Salhy offer "No Rushing Talks on Pact With U.S., Iraqis Say" which references to talks in the last two days regarding the treaty between the White House and puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki. The fact that talks took place over the last two days would indicate a cover story floated by the US (and the US friendly foreign minister of Iraq) -- that al-Maliki was unaware of the latest version and referring to an earlier draft -- was a deliberate distortion. Iraqi Parliamentarian Humam Hammoudi is quoted on the July 31st deadline stating it "will be very difficult" for a treaty to be finalized by then. From the article:
The overarching question is how much control Iraq will have over the activities of the American military on Iraqi soil.
The Americans have said they will allow civilian contractors to be held accountable under Iraqi law, said Mahmoud Othman, a member of the Political Council for National Security. He said they had also agreed to hand over to the Iraqis people captured by American soldiers and accused of crimes. Such detainees are now held in American facialities. They will also transfer suspects already held in American detention centers to the Iraqis, Mr. Othman said.
Rubin and al-Salhy wonder where prisoners turned over by the US would be held since Iraq's prisons are already overflowing. (One answer would be to release them.)
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