Baghdad / Najaf, Asharq Al-Awsat – With the deadline that the Sadrist trend has reportedly given Nuri al-Maliki fast approaching, there has been talk that the Sadrist trend intends to abandon the State of Law coalition [SLC] leader and National Alliance prime ministerial candidate if he does not meet their demands and grant the Sadrists a number of important ministerial positions, including the vice presidency, the secretariat of the Council of Ministers, as well as the responsibility for appointing Iraq’s Interior Minister and Minister of Defense.
Informed sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that al-Maliki is committed to his alliance with the Sadrist trend – which is led by Moqtada al-Sadr – because he is well aware that the political equation in Iraq could turn on him at any time should the Sadrist trend abandon its support for his nomination. This comes in light of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq [ISCI] – which is led by Ammar al-Hakim – and the Islamic Virtue party’s rejection of his candidacy, after the two parties refused to attend the National Alliance meeting where al-Maliki was named prime ministerial candidate earlier this month, instead throwing their support behind the candidacy of Iraqi Vice President and senior member of the ISCI, Adel Abdel-Mahdi.
Sources within the National Iraqi Alliance [NIA] that is led by Ammar al-Hakim have spoken of the US putting pressure on al-Maliki to abandon his alliance with the Sadrists in favor of an alliance with another electoral bloc whose policies are not at odds with the US government. The sources confirmed that al-Maliki had vehemently rejected this pressure, preferring to commit to his alliance with the Sadrist trend, something that has increased his popularity amongst Iraq’s Shiite community.
For his part, senior Sadrist trend member Jawad al-Hassanawi told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Sadrists trend “did not demand security ministries, especially as all winning electoral blocs have agreed that the security ministries are independent and subject to the approval of all parliamentary blocs, and this is a view that we share.” He added that “our electoral entitlement – as part of the National Alliance – is 25 percent, and this will be our share in the next government, and we do not ask for anything but our electoral entitlement which we will devote to the service ministries in order to advance services [in Iraq] and provide the best services to the citizens of Iraq.”
Al-Hassanawi also confirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat that the Sadrist trend “will participate strongly in the forthcoming government, and we do not have any intention of sitting amongst the opposition. We must play a large role in the forthcoming government to provide the Iraqi people with what they are missing in terms of services.” He added that “Nuri al-Maliki is strongly committed to the Sadrist trend, and no pressure is able to sever this alliance, especially as the Sadrist trend has 40 parliamentary seats, and this is a large number with regards to the equation of forming the next government, and I don’t think that al-Maliki will ignore this.”
A source within the NIA who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity confirmed that “the US has begun to pressure Nuri al-Maliki to sever his alliance with the Sadrists and form other alliances.” The source added “the US government informed al-Maliki that in the event of his committing to this alliance with the Sadrist trend, it will stop supporting him, however al-Maliki has rejected all pressure and expressed his commitment to his alliance with the Sadrists.” The source also confirmed that “there is great support amongst the Shiite political leadership for this alliance [with the Sadrists] which preserves a unified Shiite body, despite the possibility of some Shiite blocs withdrawing from the National Alliance; however the leaders are not overly concerned with this due to the declining popularity of these blocs in the central and southern governorates [of Iraq].”
For his part, Amir al-Kanani, the leader of the Ahrar political wing of the Sadrist trend called on the ISCI and the Islamic Virtue party to “review their positions and return to the National Alliance.” As for reports that the Sadrist trend had imposed a deadline on al-Maliki with regards to its support for his prime ministerial nomination, al-Kanani stressed that “there is no time limit on our alliance with al-Maliki; this is a strategic alliance and no party is able to sever it.”