Monday, August 24, 2009

Shiite Groups Announce new Alliance Minus Iraqi PM

Besides the recent major attack in Iraq in which Iraqi security forces took a bribe to help destroy their own country, we now have a major split in the government which includes anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's bloc. This move could easily strengthen Iran's influence in Iraq. Like I have been saying, no more nation building with Muslims please.

Shiite groups announce new alliance minus Iraqi PM

BAGHDAD – Major Iranian-backed Shiite groups announced a new alliance Monday but excluded the Iraqi prime minister in a rare display of disunity among the country's majority Islamic sect. The move puts pressure on Nouri al-Maliki to strike a deal with Sunni parties if he hopes to keep his job after January's parliamentary elections.

The announcement came as bombs on two buses exploded, killing at least 11 in southern Iraq. The blasts were just the latest bombings in recent weeks that have raised fears insurgents are trying to stoke sectarian violence that nearly tore the country apart two years ago.

The party realignment is a major shift in the Iraqi political scene, breaking up a Shiite coalition that has dominated Iraq's government since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

The new bloc, called the Iraqi National Alliance, will include the largest Shiite party, the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, or SIIC, and anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's bloc, which both have close ties to Tehran, as well as some small Sunni and secular parties.

If the alliance does well in the Jan. 16 vote, Tehran could gain deeper influence in Iraq just as U.S. forces begin to withdraw. The last American soldier is scheduled to leave Iraq by the end of 2011.

It's also likely to worry Sunnis who largely consider the Supreme Council as little more than an instrument of Iranian policy — exacerbating sectarian divisions at a time when violence that had waned is again on the rise.

Left outside of the alliance, al-Maliki appears to be trying to cast himself as a Shiite leader who can draw in minority Sunnis and Kurds.

Al-Maliki's aides have said the prime minister is working to form a broad-based, national coalition in a bid to end sectarian politics.

Al-Maliki's Dawa Party did not join the new alliance because its leaders would not guarantee that he would remain prime minister if the bloc dominated the election, Shiite lawmaker Reda Jawad Taqi told The Associated Press.

One of al-Maliki's advisers, Hassan al-Sineid, said the prime minister and the leaders of the new alliance differed over "the mechanism of participation in the alliance and the need to open this alliance to include a broad range of political powers."

The realignment does not immediately threaten al-Maliki's position as prime minister, but points to stormy politics in the election campaign and beyond, as U.S. troops prepare to withdraw.

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