London, Asharq al-Awsat – An informed source has revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat that Iran has sent a strongly-worded message to its allies in the Islamic Supreme Council which is led by Ammar al-Hakim and Al-Sadr Trend which is led by Muqtada al-Sadr to the effect that they have no choice but to accept Nuri al-Maliki, the outgoing prime minister and leader of the State of Law Coalition [SLC], as the candidate to head the next government.
The source, which is a leading member in the Iraqi National Alliance [INA] that is led by Al-Hakim, said the Iranian message said “you will accept Al-Maliki even if he hits you on your heads.” According to this source, Muqtada al-Sadr “was banned from traveling to Arbil to meet several political parties in the country.” Speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue, the source added that Al-Sadr wanted to travel to Arbil “but pressures exerted on him by Iran prevented him from traveling because of his recent stands which rejected Al-Maliki and because he was getting close to Al-Iraqiya List which is led by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.” The source refused however to provide more details. Al-Sadr met Allawi in Damascus before two weeks and it was reported that they agreed to meet again in Arbil where they would be joined by Kurdistan Region President Masud Barzani and Al-Hakim.
But a leading member in Al-Sadr Trend asserted to Asharq Al-Awsat that Al-Sadr “does not allow any pressures to be exerted on him by any side and he acts freely in his political approaches.” He denied that Iran did actually ban him from traveling to Arbil and said “all the trends are exercising their freedom to act. Even if there are American or Iranian agendas inside the country, they will not be at the expense of the national ones.” He stressed that “there is no objection” to the pressures to have Al-Maliki prime minister “but on condition there are guarantees from him that he will change his government’s policy. Since Al-Maliki has not done so, therefore his nomination for a second term is unacceptable to the Trend.” Asked if pressures were exerted on Al-Sadr before he traveled to Damascus and which he resisted, the source said “no pressures were exerted. Muqtada al-Sadr decided to travel to Damascus in response to an invitation from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and he met Iraqi leaders so as to facilitate the atmospheres and end the political crisis. What he wanted did actually happen. As to Arbil’s visit too, Al-Sadr spoke to Barzani who invited him but Al-Sadr has not decided its date yet.”
The Iranian position supporting Al-Maliki probably explains his SLC’s optimistic stand about his chances of winning the nomination of the National Alliance which is made up of his coalition and the INA. Leaders from the latter are stressing that the alliance is on the verge of collapse because of Al-Maliki’s insistence on being the National Alliance’s sole candidate for heading the next government. In this context, Hasan al-Shammari, a leading member in Al-Fadilah Party, one of INA’s components, said the “collapse of the alliance between the SLC and INA is very likely if the SLC insists on its sole candidate for prime minister which most INA blocs reject.”
On his part, Adnan al-Sarraj, a leading SLC member, said the coming few days would see a quick return to negotiations between the two alliances so as to come out with a single candidate from the National Alliance, stressing that the latter would not collapse. He told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Alliance “will remain cohesive and nominate Al-Maliki for prime minister.”