As reported earlier, Moqtada al-Sadr called for a new wave of protests at the end of August. He originally gave the government six months to improve its performance back in February, which expired last month. He quickly backtracked however, under pressure from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
On August 26, 2011 Moqtada al-Sadr said that his movement would lead a new wave of protests over the inability of the country’s ministries to provide basic services. Back in February, while national protests were rocking the country, Sadr at first threatened to have one million of his followers march across Iraq, but then reversed course and said that none of his members should participate in any demonstrations because he was giving the government six months to do a better job. That deadline ended in August. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki allegedly sent a delegation to see Sadr in Iran where he currently resides to pressure him to back off on his threat. On September 4, the Sadr Trend responded by saying that it was giving the authorities more time to improve services.
This was the latest example of Sadr backing down when confronted by the premier. Earlier in the year for example, Sadr said that he would bring back his Mahdi Army if the United States’ forces were given an extension to stay in the country past the December 31 withdrawal deadline. Then in July, the Sadrist website said that the militia would not return. One major reason for this reversal was that the Sadrists’ increasingly militant rhetoric had angered Maliki. He was unwilling to allow militiamen to openly return to the streets of Iraq as Sadr was threatening. The Sadrists are one of Maliki’s main supporters in the ruling coalition, and they have so far been unwilling to break this alliance, although they do occasional criticize the prime minister. Sadr cancelling demonstrations is just the latest example of his unwillingness to challenge Maliki at this time. He is either committed to his alliance with Maliki, which has given his followers control of several ministries, or Sadr is simply biding his time until he can make a real challenge to the premier. Iran may also be exerting pressure on Sadr to stay in the National Alliance with Maliki’s State of Law and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council to ensure Shiite rule over the country, even though the coalition exists in name only.
Al Rafidayn, “Sadr gives the government another deadline and deny the existence of regional pressure to cancel events,” 9/4/11