Bill Roggio has some good analysis over at the Long War Journal on Maliki’s latest gambit designed to sideline Moqtada al Sadr and his Jaish al Mahdi [Mahdi Army] ahead of the upcoming elections. Having failed to knock the Sadrists off-balance militarily during the recent engagement in Basra, Maliki is trying a political manoeuvre, passing a parliamentary resolution to ban all political parties that maintain an armed militia from participating in the election. While it is too early to say how it will pan out, early signs suggest that in his latest face-off with al Sadr, Maliki is playing his cards a little better.
Less than two weeks after Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki launched Operation Knights’ Assault to clear the Mahdi Army and other Iranian-backer militias in Basrah, the Iraqi government is moving to ban Muqtada al Sadr’s political movement from participating in the election if it fails to disband the militia. Facing near-unanimous opposition, Sadr said he would seek guidance from senior Shia clerics in Najaf and Qom and disband the Mahdi Army if told to do so, according to one aide. But another Sadr aide denied this.
The pressure on Sadr and his Mahdi Army started on Sunday after Maliki announced the plans to pass legislation to prevent political parties with militias from participating in the political process. “The first step will be adding language to a draft election bill banning parties that operate militias from fielding candidates in provincial balloting this fall,” Reuters reported on Sunday. “The government intends to send the draft to parliament within days and hopes to win approval within weeks.”
Today, Maliki was explicit that the legislation was aimed at Muqtada al Sadr, his Sadrist movement, and the Mahdi Army. “Solving the problem comes in no other way than dissolving the Mahdi Army,” Maliki told CNN. “They no longer have a right to participate in the political process or take part in the upcoming elections unless they end the Mahdi Army.”
Read the full piece here.