Saturday brought the shocking news that cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr was stepping away from politics. Alsumaria reported he released a statement Saturday evening announcing he was closing all of his offices and retiring from all things political. Aswat al-Iraq quoted from Moqtada's staemtne, "I declare that I will not interfere in all political matters, in addition that not bloc will represent us in any position inside the government or outside it or the parliament." Trend News Agency notes that Moqtada has stated "his satellite channel Al-Adwaa and a Quran radio station would remain open." Sunday, All Iraq News reported that Sadr bloc MPs Hussien Alwan al-Lami, Hussien al-Mansouri and Hussien Hamim held a press conference and declared that, in respect of Moqtada's decision, they were resigning from Parliament. World Bulletin notes three more resigned for a total of six MPs. NINA reports it is thought 18 MPs have resigned or will be resigning.
That's not that many. If there were 9 MPs in the Sadr bloc, maybe. But there are forty. Six of the 40 hold Cabinet positions. Al Mada reports there is confusion about nearly everything -- Moqtada's announcement, the meaning of it, supposedly 15 MPs resigning. Kitabat notes that some are saying 18 MPs have resigned.
Some outlets are reporting claims that Moqtada made the decision to retire from politics months ago.
The Sadr bloc employees voted last week for the controversial pension law for MPs -- a law that was seen as corrupt and had caused controversy for over a year now and last week's votes led to massive protests. Press TV explains:
Press TV got in contact with several MPs from the Sadr movement. They were all reluctant to speak about the issue, with some of them saying Muqtada Sadr's move was a surprise to them. Some believe that the move is due to Muqtada Sadr's parliamentarians’ stance on a recent pension law. The law, which has drawn protests, is seen by ordinary Iraqis as a way for politicians to lead a more lucrative life style. It’s said that Sadr's parliamentary representatives were told not to vote on the law, but in secrecy they did any way.
Whether or not the vote on the pension law impacted his decision, it is apparently weighing on his mind. Kitabat reports Moqtada is expected to make a statement tomorrow addressing the issue of the pension law.
The Independent's Patrick Cockburn types:
It is unclear if Mr Sadr’s withdrawal will be permanent or temporary, though a Sadrist official emphasised that it was wrong to use the word “retirement” to describe Mr Sadr’s departure from politics. He added that Mr Sadr’s disillusionment with Iraqi politics went beyond the issues of corruption and excessive parliamentary pay and he was disappointed that so many people “are sympathetic to sectarian policies”. He has accused the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, of playing the sectarian card in the upcoming election by presenting himself as the leader of the Shia community in the face of an attack by the Sunni minority.
That would be an attack on the Sunni minority -- on. But the only thing Paddy's ever on is Nouri's crotch. As usual, he uses his space not to report on Moqtada but to repeat lies and attacks on the Sunni population. His hostility, his bias, is well known. Mushreq Abbas (Al-Monitor) offers a more honest approach:
Although the statement did not give clear reasons for this decision, there were signals alluding to its motives such as “ending corruption” in the name of Sadr's offices inside and outside Iraq, “ending the suffering of the Iraqi people,” disengaging from “politics and politicians” and saving the reputation of the Sadr family, which is revered.
These signals, in addition to leaks coming from people close to Sadr, pointed to an internal crisis between Sadr and his movement, ranging from Sadr’s loss of confidence in his offices, his associates and the political bodies that operate under his command; the discovery of financial corruption and the use of Sadr’s name in illegal acts, in addition to the fact that some of Sadr’s 40 members of parliament signed the controversial pension law, which provided exceptional privileges to parliament members and senior state officials. That law angered the street and infuriated top Shiite cleric Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani, who called on the public not to elect the forces that voted for the law.
But those reasons do not seem to justify Sadr’s major step, especially given that he could have expelled any deputy or figure in his movement without the need for dissolving it. And he could have made significant changes in the Sadrist current’s work and orientations.
Gulf Daily News quotes analyst Ali Ammer stating, "Sadr's decision will definitely play into the hands of Al Maliki in the next election in one way or another." WG Dunlop (AFP) speaks with a number of observers to get their take and we'll note this one:
Sadr “usually backs out of the political limelight when he is physically threatened” or “when the Sadrist movement has to do something politically expedient that Sadr wants to disassociate from,” said Michael Knights, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Of Sadr’s possible return, Knights said: “Nothing is permanent in Iraq except death.”
Abdul Rahman al-Rashed (Asharq al-Awsat) offers:
Iraqi Shi’ite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr surprised us when he announced he was quitting politics, urging his followers to also refrain from getting too engaged here. Does his decision imply a secret agreement whereby one of the remaining candidates has a better chance of winning Iraq’s upcoming elections? Perhaps it is part of a deal in which Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki wins because he does not have to stand against Sadr. Perhaps Sadr is angry at his movement’s representatives in parliament, or perhaps it is a tactical decision in the run-up to the elections.
We simply don’t know. But what is certain is that by quitting politics, he has disrupted the calculations and forecasts of observers. Sadr’s many followers will not hesitate to vote in the upcoming elections due to be held in a few weeks. Now that he has quit politics, the question is: Who will his millions of followers vote for? These people are capable of shifting the outcome of the elections.
This isn't Moqtada's first attempt to step away from politics or even his first attempt in the past six months. Last August, he announced he was stepping away from politics. Shortly after, he changed his mind. From the September 12th snapshot:
Turning to Iraqi politics, Kitabat reports cleric and movement Moqtada al-Sadr has finished trips to Lebanon and Jordan and paid his respects to his late father at the Najaf shrine and is now ready to re-enter political life. Moqtada has surprised many by announcing he was stepping away from politics. Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi publicly called for Moqtada to return to politics. Allawi's sentiments were echoed by Iraqis of all sects, not just Shi'ite members of Moqtada's movement. In a statement issued today, Moqtada acknowledged those calls and announces he will heed them.
Some felt the move was a stunt and said so in real time. Whether it was a stunt or not (it felt like a real announcement and decision to me when he announced he was walking away from politics), the move underscores how important Moqtada has become to Iraqi politics and how he could command respect in the role of prime minister. Because of the stances he has taken in the last three years, Moqtada the politician is seen as fighting for the interests of Iraq. That's a huge shift from the early years of the war when Moqtada was seen by many Iraqis as only interested in Shi'ites (and only in fundamental ones at that).
Friday's snapshot noted Nouri has warrants out for various political rivals.
Moqtada's announcement in August followed Nouri declaring Moqtada was responsible for the violence.
Knights (as noted above) said Moqtada usually resigns at times such as when he's physically threatened. An arrest warrant might do that. An arrest warrant or the fear of one might also explain why Saturday's statement by Moqtada included this, "By this decision, I want to end all evils that were committed or may be committed under Sadrist Foundation, inside Iraq or abroad."
Or this could be a bold political step.
This could, for example, be a step towards the post of prime minister. The winning bloc or slate could pick anyone to be named as prime minister-designate. This might be part of a deal not yet exposed which allows Moqtada the chance of being prime minister.
Or it might be about setting him up in an even higher role.
Yes, there is higher than prime minister.
Nouri has been prime minister for two consecutive terms and has used the office to attack many of his political rivals.
Who's the person even a rabid dog like Nouri knows that he better not bark at?
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
Moqtada may be angling for that position. The Grand Ayatollah is 83-years-old. His health is always the source of rumors in Iraq.
Moqtada's time in Iran before returning to Iraq a few years ago was spent advancing his religious studies.
This may be Moqtada's move towards the highest office possible in Iraq.
Or he may have just tired of the nonsense.
This December 2013 interview can argue that case (as well as back up those who claim Moqtada made his decision some time ago). He notes frustrations. He notes a refusal, in 2012, to pull together (in the vote against Nouri). He expresses frustrations with the process itself and that even a new election law would not eradicate the problems.
Many politicians and political blocs urged Moqtada to reconsider. NINA reports:
The MP, of the Iraqiya coalition, Etab al-Duri warned from the consequences of Muqtada al- Sadr's retirement from the political life .
She said in a press statement : "al-Sadr and his moderate, impartiality and patriotism stands is a safety valve for the political process and the unity of the country."
She added : " His retirement from political life would upset the powers' balance within the political process , which will cause crack and deteriorate more than it is now."
All Iraq News adds that Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi's Motahidon Alliance is asking Moqtada "to reconsider" and stating their belief that if Moqtada sticks to this decision Iraq will suffer. Ayad Allawi has also expressed his belief that Moqtada should reconsider. Alsumaria quotes Allawi, head of Iraqiya in 2010 when it won the parliamentary elections, saying Moqtada's absence would leave a serious void. Alsumaria notes the growing chorus calling for Moqtada to reconsider.
Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq MP Humam Hamoudi spoke for many today. All Iraq News notes he declared that Iraq will not benefit from a third term for Nouri al-Maliki. The chief thug and current prime minister of Iraq Nouri is in the news cycle for various reasons. Iraq Times notes one of the main ones, reports that his son-in-law Yasser al-Maliki has purchased a small villa on the outskirts of London. Arab social media noting the report tends to note that the property is purchased with stolen money, that Iraqis still lack dependable electricity while Nouri attempts to play to the manor born, that Nouri fainted in public recently, that Dawa (his political party) is prepping a list of names for the post of prime minister and his is not on the list due to the failures exposed by his assault on Anbar.
AFP reports today, "Iraqi soldiers and police backed by helicopters and tanks on Monday battled militants for control of a northern town that has repeatedly changed hands in recent days, officials said." They're referring to Sulaiman Bek but they could be referring to Falluja or Ramadi, it doesn't matter. When you declare you're going to root out 'terrorists' in Anbar Province and the result instead is the people -- who you target with collective punishment -- rise up against you and do so successfully, that goes to what a failure you are as a leader.
And only a real idiot would reveal their weakest spots. That's what Nouri's done.
Many in Iraq have long feared Nouri's loony, paranoid remarks -- a crazed world where Iraq's neighbors rooted for its defeat and flooded Iraq with money and foreign fighters.
If true, foreign fighters now know where to go -- the weak spots have been revealed.
Nouri The Incompetent.
AKE's John Drake Tweeted today:
Violence continued today.
National Iraqi News Agency reports a roadside bombing south of Mosul left "two technicians of the North Oil Company" wounded, 2 eastern Baghdad car bombings (Ur district) left 11 people dead and forty injured, an al Qayyarah roadside bombing claimed the lives of 2 adults and 1 child and left four police injured, a south of Mosul roadside bombing left 1 child dead and the mother injured, a Baghdad car bombing (al-Ghazaliya area) left 1 person dead and four more injured, a Ramadi car bombing left 3 police dead and six more injured, and an Aljnobh roadside bombing claimed the lives of 2 Iraqi soldiers with three more injured. Duraid Adnan (New York Times) reports that Baghdad had more bombings than just in Ur: a Karrada car bombing left 9 dead (thirty injured), a Ghazaliya bombing left 4 dead (fifteen injured), an al -Amil bombing left 2 dead (and nine injured).
National Iraqi News Agency reports 1 police member was shot dead in southern Baghdad (Dora district), 1 person was shot dead in Tarmiya, a Wadi Hajar battle left 1 police member dead and another injured, a Riyadh battle left 3 Iraqi soldiers dead and five more injured, "the Mukhtar of Besrj villaged Ahmed al-Abded" was shot dead in Besrj village, the Ministry of the Interior announced 10 suspects were killed by security forces in Anbar, and, dropping back to late last night, 2 Sahwa were shot dead in Shamsiah Village.
While Nouri's declared war on Anbar Province, he's a left a lot of people noticing how little he does. Rudaw reports Nineveh Province is talking semi-autonomy:
Iraq's Sunni Nineveh province says it is considering autonomy from the Shiite-led government in Baghdad and trying to work out territorial divisions with the autonomous Kurdistan Region. As violence in Iraq continues to worsen, and the autonomous Kurdistan Region remains Iraq’s only stable and economically prosperous portion, other regions in the country have been considering different models of self-administration.
"The provincial administration has started negotiation with the Kurdistan Region for implementing the project of turning Nineveh into an autonomous region," said Nineveh governor Athil Nujaif.
"It's aimed at improving the situation of Nineveh administratively and offering services, not for sectarian separation," he added.
Atheel al-Nujaifi is a political rival of Nouri al-Maliki -- Atheel's brother is Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi.
Currently the Kurdistan Regional Government is the only semi-autonomous area of Iraq. Erbil is the capitol and it is in conflict with the desires of the central government based out of Baghdad -- the desires, but not the laws because Nouri promised he'd get a national oil and gas law passed -- he promised it in 2007 -- but he never did. And under existing law? The KRG can do what it wants with its oil.
One thing it wants to do is sell oil and gas to Turkey. Aswat al-Iraq reported Saturday that Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani to discuss both sides continued support for "the agreement signed with the Kurdish region on energy." Nouri doesn't want that agreement honored.
Today, a Kurdish delegation, headed by Prime Minister Barzani, et with Nouri. NINA notes that the issue of the federal budget for 2014 was discussed. Nouri's repeatedly attempted to blackmail the KRG with the federal budget. Thus far, it has not worked. Al Mada notes this was the second meet-up between Barzani and Nouri in less than a month.
Rudaw reports of the meet-up that it "failed in a breakthrough over an agreement that would allow the autonomous Kurdistan Region to export its own oil through a pipeline to Turkey, sources said following a fifth round of talks. However, Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) both vowed to continue talks to resolve differences." Reuters notes
Baghdad has threatened to sue Ankara and slash the autonomous region’s share of the national budget if exports go ahead through the pipeline without its consent.
The pipeline was completed late last year, and oil has since been pumped through it into storage tanks at Turkey’s Ceyhan, but exports from the Mediterranean port are on hold to give diplomacy a chance.
Negotiations have carried on for months with little progress.
As Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and Minister of Natural Resources Ashti Hawrami headed for Baghdad, however, one industry source said he foresaw a breakthrough “in a week or two,” adding, “If it takes any longer than that, there is a problem.”
Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Fake Ass Jeans" went up earlier today. Reminder, do you have a question about Iraq? If so . . .
Are you curious about the political/economic relations between the U.S. and Iraq? Do you want to know more about cultural and educational programs?
Well, here’s your chance! Post your questions to Ambassador Stephen Beecroft on our Facebook page or send them to USEmbassy2014@gmail.com. The deadline for submitting your questions is March 1, 2014. We will post the Ambassador’s answers to the most popular questions on the Embassy’s Facebook page and Youtube channel.
We'll close with this from BRussells Tribunal:
A call to peace organisations and international NGOs,
academics, politicians, journalists
and all people of good faith:
ACCOUNTABILITY AND JUSTICE FOR IRAQ.
You are cordially invited to attend the IRAQ COMMISSION
on April 16-17, 2014 in Brussels.
Together with Iraqis, lawyers, academics and activists worldwide
we will try to develop a legal roadmap for future legal and civil
actions against the planners and executors of the illegal war
and occupation of the sovereign nation Iraq.
(confirmed participants from the USA, Malaysia, India, Canada, the UK, Spain, Sweden, Jordan, Algeria, France, ...)
Confirmed speakers are:
MICHEL CHOSSUDOVSKY (Director Centre Global Research – Canada)
ROSS CAPUTI (US-marine during the second siege of Falluja in 2004 – US – see also his letter to John Kerry)
SABAH AL-MUKHTAR (President of the Arab Lawyers Association – Iraq - UK)
CURTIS F.J.DOEBBLER (Law practitioner before the International Court of Justice, the African Commission and Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights, the European Court of Human Rights, the Inter-American Commission and Court of Human Rights, the United Nations Administrative Tribunal, and the United Nations Treaty bodies – US),
NILOUFER BHAGWAT (Vice President of the Indian Lawyers Association - India)
INDER COMAR (Legal Director at Comar Law + lawsuit in San Francisco against the planners of the Iraq War, including Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, Powell and Wolfowitz - California)
DAHR JAMAIL (Journalist who was one of the few un-embedded journalists to report extensively from Iraq during the US occupation - US)
LINDSEY GERMAN (Convenor of the British anti-war organisation Stop the War Coalition – Iraq - UK)
JOSÉ ANTONIO MARTÍN PALLÍN (He is judge emeritus and was a public prosecutor at the Supreme Court. He presides over the Spanish Human Rights Association - Spain)
HAIFA ZANGANA (Iraqi novelist and artist, columnist for al-Quds newspaper – Iraq - UK)
Dr. ZULAIHA ISMAIL (Executive Director of the Perdana Global Peace Foundation. Member of the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission (KLWCC) – Malaysia)
EMAN AHMED KHAMAS (Iraqi activist – Iraq - Spain)
To register for the Iraq Commission, please contact the BRUSSELLS TRIBUNAL at
trend news agency