Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat—Sadr movement leader, Moqtada Al-Sadr, struck a fatal blow to the seven-member committee tasked by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki to consider the demands of protesters, announcing the withdrawal of all Sadr movement ministers from this commission. This committee is headed by Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister for Energy and senior member of Maliki’s State of Law coalition Hussein Al-Shahristani.
Speaking during a press conference held at the Sadrist headquarters yesterday, spokesman Sheikh Salah Al-Obeidi said, “The seven-member committee—formed by the government to look at the demands of the protesters—has yet to take any practical decisions to contribute to resolving these demands in the correct manner.”
He added that, “The solutions put forward by the seven-member committee do not meet the size of the growing crisis in the country, in addition to failing to be aware of all the necessary operational aspects to resolve this.”
Obeidi indicated that, “Political bickering has dominated the work of the blocs during the current period, which hampered the efforts to resolve this issue in the correct manner.”
“Failure to listen to the view of the religious authorities worsened the protest crisis, particularly as they aimed to resolve this from the outset.” The Sadr movement spokesman added.
For his part, Sadrist MP Mohamed Rida Al-Khafaji informed Asharq Al-Awsat that Maliki “is not serious about finding real solutions to the protesters’ demands, and if the religious authorities had not intervened he would have been able to transgress further, particularly as parties close to him had already begun to incite the street and play on sectarian tensions.”
“Since the beginning of the crisis the Sadr movement has taken the initiative to meet the protesters demands, the majority of which we view as being legitimate.” Khafaji said.
MP Khafaji also revealed that, “Sadr sent delegations to these governorates and these delegations returned with demands and these were raised to parliament and the government, while he also asked the prime minister to send an Islamic Dawa Party delegation to receive the protesters demands, however Maliki refused and rather than going to the people directly in his position as prime minister of Iraq, he began to make attempts to move the street and form a committee that has yet to do anything to meet the people’s demands.”
“The Sadrists will not be a party to this process of procrastination and stalling, particularly as we informed Maliki from the outset that the demands of the protesters are legitimate, their protests are spontaneous, and they do not have a unified leadership or demands.” He added.
The MP also informed Asharq Al-Awsat that, “We also warned against betting on the time factor because this is not in Maliki’s favor, we said that continuing this process of procrastination will raise the ceiling of demands and open the door to foreign interference and agendas.”
Khafaji clarified that “This dismissive dealing with the crisis forced the religious authorities to intervene . . . therefore we are withdrawing from the seven-member committee because we are not prepared to betray the religious authorities and because Maliki has made a critical mistake. He must reform his practices which are not in line with being the leader of everybody in the country, rather than in the interests of one party against another. They are all our people and their demands should be met.”
Iraq’s protesters welcomed the move taken by the Sadr movement to withdraw from the seven-member committee. Chairman of the Anbar tribes, Sheikh Humaid Al-Shoka told Asharq Al-Awsat, “The protesters demands are crystal clear and this does not require committees but serious measures to implement these.”
He stressed, “Since the outset we said that if the government was serious it would have begun immediate implementation of the majority of the demands that fall under its authority.”
Sheikh Shoka also asserted that “The step taken by Sadr to withdraw his ministers from this committee is a courageous one and demonstrates a sound view of this position. More importantly, it confirms our convictions that some parties are trying to play on sectarian tensions at a time when religious leaders are making courageous statements, particularly the religious authorities in Najaf as well as religious leaders like Sayyid Sadr and Sayyid (Ammar) Al-Hakim, as well as what we are hearing from out tribal cousins in central and southern Iraq who understand the legitimacy of our demands.”
In other news, Iyad Allawi’s Iraqiya bloc announced that its ministers would continue to boycott cabinet meetings, adding that it is considering taking new positions should the government’s policy of stalling and procrastination should continue. Iraqiya bloc MP Talal Zobaie told Asharq Al-Awsat, “The Iraqiya bloc continues to be of the view that the issue can be resolved by dealing with the protesters directly, rather than through the formation of committees and the like.”
He added, “The continuation of this procrastination and stalling will prompt us to take other unprecedented actions such as completely withdrawing from the political process because we cannot bear false witness to a political process that is failing to seriously deal with the people’s demands.”
MP Zobaie emphasized that, “The best evidence of the lack of seriousness on the part of the government is the Sadrists’ decision to withdraw their ministers” adding “they are partners in the National Alliance that includes Prime Minister Nuri Maliki.”
Answering a question regarding the protesters’ refusing to deal with politicians, including Iraqiya bloc members, and whether there is any point in the Sadrists withdrawing under such circumstances, Zobaie said, “The protesters have every right to say this because they have truly gone to hell and back thanks to the politicians, however our position reflects our own view, particularly as we are a part of the Iraqi people and we must bear responsibility to history regarding what is happening.”