Here are some further points I did not discuss in the main article for risk of digressing too far, but are worth noting anyway:
• The Majlis Al-A’yan in Basra that declared its solidarity with the protests in Anbar is an example of how reactions to the current political crisis have crossed sectarian boundaries. As Qasim Zuhair of the Baghdad-based newspaper Al-Aalem pointed out to me, the tribal council in question is not all that influential.
Previously, the council has complained that the Maliki government has not done enough to provide good public services and stimulate economic growth in Basra. Thus, their sympathy with the anti-Maliki sentiment in the Anbar protests is not all that surprising.
Further, it is likely that at least some of the sheikhs on the council sympathize with the pro-autonomy movement in Basra province, which has the same grievances against the central government as the Majlis al-A’yan.
The autonomy movement encompasses members of mainstream parties like the Sadrist Fadhila (Islamic Virtue Party) and some from the ranks of Maliki’s own Islamic Dawa Party. However, as of yet it still lacks sufficient popular support to achieve anything meaningful on the ground, and Maliki himself remains opposed to the idea of autonomy for Basra.
• Some might see the attack of certain demonstrators on Saleh al-Mutlaq as indicative of openly militant sentiment in the Anbar protests, but given that Mutlaq was once a fierce critic of Maliki -- openly describing him on CNN as a dictator worse than Maliki -- it comes as no shock that many of the protesters regard him with such disdain. Further, it should be noted that the situation was exacerbated when guards in Mutlaq’s entourage fired on demonstrators who were throwing shoes at him (a sign of extreme dislike, to be sure, but not beyond the pale).
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