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07BAGHDAD2285 2007-07-10 14:42:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Baghdad
Cable title:  

MALIKI VENTS HIS FRUSTRATION WITH THE SADRISTS IN

Tags:   PGOV IZ 
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1. (C) Prime Minister Maliki warned the Sadrists in remarks
to the media on July 7 to distance themselves from "Baathist
and Saddamist" elements using the Sadrist name to undertake
acts of violence. His remarks, apparently prompted by JAM
confrontations with ISF in the south, provoked an outraged
public response from leading Sadrists. In private, the
Sadrists approached leading Dawa figure Ali al-Adeeb to see
if Dawa supported Maliki's position, Adeeb told us on July 9.
The Sadrist reaction may be compounded by feelings of
isolation as ISCI and Dawa draw closer together and form a
"group of four" with the Kurds. One CoR member said that
Sadrist leaders were considering a complete withdrawal from
the government. Maliki told the Ambassador July 10 that he
would not relinquish his pressure on the Sadrists to
disassociate themselves from violent 'gangs.' While Maliki's
remarks represent exactly the sort of message Shi'a
interlocutors need to deliver to the Sadrists, it will be
critical for Shi'a leaders to manage the Sadrists' reaction.
End summary.



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Remarks and Reaction


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2. (SBU) After a meeting with President Talabani on July 7,
Prime Minister Maliki warned the Sadrists to distance
themselves from those who use their name "in killing and
terrorist acts and violating the law on a daily basis
everywhere." Noting that Sadrist leaders have repeatedly
condemned violence against other Iraqis, he reasoned that
those practicing the violence must be "impersonators" or
"Saddamists and Baathists" who are not truly part of the
Sadrist movement. His comments, later posted on the GOI
website, caused an outraged public response from several
Sadrist leaders. Sadrist spokesman Salah al-Ubaidi called
Maliki's statement "a green light to the occupation troops to
strike and annihilate the Sadr movement", and Sadr advisor
Ahmed al-Sheibani predicted the fall of the Maliki
government. Sadrist CoR member Baha al-Araji defended the
Sadrist record and pointed out that Maliki became Prime
Minister because of Sadrist support. Maliki's comments,
while not a full-scale attack on the Sadrists, represent his
most pointed public comments to date. A Fadhila CoR member
remarked that Maliki "has been saying this sort of thing in
private for months, but this is the first time in public."



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Sadrists and Dawa Go Back and Forth


--------------------------





3. (C) Ali al-Adeeb, leading Dawa CoR member, told PolCouns
on July 9 that the Sadrist political office in Najaf had
called him to protest the tarnishing of the Sadrist image and
to ask whether Maliki's statements represented the position
of the Dawa party. According to al-Adeeb, he replied that
Maliki's statements "represent your (i.e., the Sadrist)
position," in essence repeating Maliki's reasoning. He said
that he urged the Sadrists not to cut off dialogue with the
Shi'a coalition and to return to the CoR. Al-Adeeb said that
Dawa, at the request of the Sadrists, had issued a statement
on July 8 emphasizing that the Prime Minister's statement was
not an attack against the Sadrists per se. He said he was
waiting to hear the next round of the Sadrists' public
remarks. PolCouns told Adeeb that Maliki's remarks were
entirely proper and useful.



--------------------------


Violence and Insecurity


--------------------------





4. (C) PM insider and CoR member Sami al-Askari (Shi'a
Coalition, Independent) told Poloff late July 9 that Maliki
made his statement after recent episodes of violence between
JAM and Iraqi security forces in Samawah and Nasiriyah. "The
Sadrists always say that Badr controls the police
institutions and they have to defend their interests against
Badr, and there is some truth to that," al-Askari continued.
"But these episodes represented a direct challenge to the
government and Maliki had to speak out." Maliki's comments
may have aggravated a feeling of insecurity among the
Sadrists given the current ISCI-Dawa discussions, increasing
the virulence of their reaction. Al-Askari said the Sadrists
felt "isolated" by the formation of the ISCI-Dawa-PUK-KDP
"group of four", and leading ISCI CoR member Humam Hamoudi
observed that the Sadrists were fearful of ISCI and Dawa

BAGHDAD 00002285 002 OF 002


forming a coalition to contest provincial elections in the
center and south. (Prime Minister Maliki told the Ambassador
July 10 that he would not relinquish his pressure on the
Sadrists to disassociate themselves from violent 'gangs,' and
he said he sensed the Sadrists were on the defensive. See
septel.)



--------------------------


A Full Sadrist Pullout?


--------------------------





5. (C) Al-Askari reported that one Sadrist CoR member had
told him that Sadrist leadership was considering making a
complete break with the government. (Note: Sadrist
ministers left the government several months ago and Sadrist
CoR members are currently boycotting the CoR. End note.)
"They are asking what benefit they are getting from serving
in the government," he said, noting that Muqtada was
half-hearted about participation in the government from the
beginning. Al-Askari argued that a complete break would
create a major problem, as extreme elements of the Sadrists,
backed by Iran, would further turn to violence to advance
their goals. Asked what Maliki could do to prevent such a
break, al-Askari said that the major carrot of interest to
Sadrists was release of key detainees.



--------------------------


Comment


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6. (C) In addition to reacting to recent episodes of
violence in the south, Maliki's remarks may also reflect that
he no longer believes he will lose anything by burning
bridges with the Sadrists. Maliki has clearly been fed up
with Sadrist tactics for some time, and he may simply feel
the price of trying to placate them is not worth the meager
and temporary payback. He may also feel that the group of
four will provide him enough political support at the
present. The extent of Dawa support for the group of four
remains uncertain, however, and Maliki's remarks are likely
to push the Sadrists and Ibrahim al-Jafari, Maliki's chief
rival in Dawa, closer together.



7. (C) Maliki delivered exactly the sort of message to the
Sadrists that we need all respected Shi'a leaders to deliver:
Sadrists cannot claim to be legitimate participants in the
political process at the same time as they undermine it with
violence. Given the pointed and public nature of his
remarks, however, it will be critical for Shi'a leaders to
manage the Sadrist reaction to contain and minimize violence.
End comment.
CROCKER