won a surprising 40 seats, the largest amount within the Iraqi National Alliance (INA). Since then Moqtada al-Sadr’s followers have largely played the role of spoiler, consistently rejecting Nouri al-Maliki’s nomination for a second term as prime minister. In August, the Sadr Trend tried to change its tune by coming out in support of Iyad Allawi and his Iraqi National Movement (INM).
In the past few days, the Sadrists have said that they believe the National Movement has the right to form a new government. On August 19, Allawi and Sadr held a phone conversation, and the next day a member of the Sadr Trend told the press that a ruling coalition would be formed out of the National Movement, the National Alliance, and the Kurdish Alliance. On August 21, another member of the Sadr movement said to Al-Hayat that Allawi had their support. Two days later it was reported that both Allawi and Sadr would attend a conference in Syria to try to put together a new government as well. The icebreaker between the two occurred in July when they had their first face-to-face meeting in Damascus. Sadrist parliamentarians and those from Allawi’s Iraqi National List also cooperated on issues in the previous legislature beginning in 2008. Before that the two sides had hostile relations as Allawi, when he was the interim prime minister, okayed a U.S. crackdown on the Mahdi Army in 2004.
The big question now is whether the Sadrists’ backing for Allawi is sincere. Talks between all the lists have led to nothing substantial so far, and the Shiite parties have used previous negotiations with the National Movement as a ploy to pressure each other. The Sadr trend could be doing this again as a means to force Maliki into dropping his nomination to be prime minister. On the other hand, they could really be throwing their weight behind Allawi. They have successfully withstood Iranian pressure for the Shiite lists to re-unite behind Maliki so far, and joining with the National Movement may be their only way to truly show their independence, and use their newfound political clout. Only time will tell what is behind the Sadrists latest moves.
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