As seen this time in the Maliki-Issawi showdown, there’s a lot more to Iraqi politics than sectarian divisions.
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In any event, the reaction of Iraq’s other political factions outside the State of Law bloc — overwhelmingly criticizing Maliki for his move against Issawi — still tells against a monolithic sectarian analysis of the current crisis. The main issue instead is the ongoing absence of proper rule of law in Iraq.
What next for Maliki? It seems he has recognized that he has gone too far in going after Issawi’s entourage, and accordingly has made a concession to appease protesters by ordering the transfer from Baghdad to Anbar of some female prisoners who have complained of torture in prisons in the capital.
Just as Maliki eventually reached a concord of understanding with the Sunni Arab deputy PM Saleh al-Mutlaq, who had openly accused Maliki of being a dictator worse than Saddam (and was recently attacked by demonstrators in Anbar), thus he will attempt to do so with Issawi.
Yet it should not be thought that Maliki will have gained anything from this debacle. On the contrary, his standing among Sunni Arabs in the disputed territories will likely be diminished for the provincial elections this year as a result of his move against Issawi, even as his brinkmanship game over the past month or so with the KRG had helped him build up a support base among Arabs — both Shi’ite and Sunni — in the disputed areas.
On a final note, be careful about drawing any connection between the current political crisis and a likely upcoming wave of bomb attacks by the likes of al-Qa’ida in Iraq. Analysis of data on violence illustrates that the remaining insurgents launch a campaign whenever major Shi’ite festivals like Arba’een come up (Arba’een is happening right now), in which the numerous pilgrims who have come to Karbala are particularly vulnerable targets.
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