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Maliki’s Sunni opponents are part of the al-Iraqiya bloc, which is led by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. He is a secular Shiite that is hated by Iran and looked upon favorably by the U.S. The bloc holds 82 of the 325 seats in Iraq’s parliament and it is now boycotting ministerial and parliamentarian meetings.
Al-Iraqiya is the strongest rival to Maliki, and it is possible that these charges reflect growing ties between Maliki and Iran. For example, the Iraqi delegation that recently met with President Obama included the Minister of Transportation, Hadi Farhan al-Amiri. He was a commander in the Iranian-backed Badr Brigades militia. When FOX News investigated it, a White House source pointed out that the Bush Administration also met with Iranian-tied officials. FOX was shown a photo of President Bush meeting with Sayyed Abdul Aziz al-Hakim of the Iranian-backed Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq. In 2006, U.S. forces arrested two members of Iran’s al-Quds Force at al-Hakim’s compound where they were meeting with al-Amiri.
The sectarian tension is particularly worrisome because U.S. forces have now left Iraq. The Sunnis distrust the Iraqi security forces, arguing that they are often a tool of sectarian forces. Moqtada al-Sadr is threatening to reconstitute his Mehdi Army militia so it can target any remaining American civilian presence, such as contractors. There is reportedly discussion about 800 to 1,000 American trainers returning to Iraq. If his militia is revived, the Sunnis will likely be provoked into bringing back their own militias, even if al-Sadr says he won’t target Iraqis.
Iraq is now facing its moment of truth. Now that American forces are gone, it will now be seen whether Iraq’s fragile democratic beginnings can be preserved or if it will fall into renewed authoritarianism and Iranian hegemony. Its sectarian communities will have to come together for the common good or watch the country spiral into violence and political dysfunction once again.
The Iraqis are deciding their own future now and it is up to them to get it right.
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