US intervenes in Iraq election row as feared militia waits in wings


Patrick Cockburn
London Independent
April 26, 2010

The United States is trying to resolve the growing crisis over the formation of a new Iraqi government, with a deal between current prime minister Nouri al-Maliki and his main rival Iyad Allawi under which each man would hold the post of prime minister for two years at the head of a coalition government, The Independent has learned.

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Fearful of growing political turmoil that would make it difficult or embarrassing to withdraw its remaining combat troops by August this year, as President Barack Obama has pledged, Washington has arranged talks about a joint government. The proposal is for Mr Maliki and Mr Allawi to split the four-year prime ministerial term, according to Dr Mahmoud Othman, who is a veteran member of the Baghdad parliament.

This weekend’s threat by the anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to send his much-feared Mehdi Army militia back onto the streets in the wake of Friday’s bomb attacks has only served to underline the growing crisis in Iraq since the inconclusive general election last month.

Mr Sadr said he would only reactivate his Shia militiamen under government control “to be formal brigades in the Iraqi army or police to protect shrines, mosques, markets, houses and cities”. But the return of the Mehdi Army would weaken the government and terrify Sunni Arabs in Iraq because of the role it played in the sectarian slaughter of 2006-7.

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