March 21, 2010


Controversial Iraqi Shiite savors growing power: Politician Hakim Zamili represents the paradoxes of the Sadr movement, with his alleged role in the bloody sectarian war and his anticipated clout in the formation of Baghdad's new coalition government. (Ned Parker and Raheem Salman, March 21, 2010, LA Times)

[I]n the March 7 national elections, Sadr followers may end up the leading vote-getters in their Shiite political bloc, with at least 40 seats, a showing that would give them a bigger voice than Shiite religious parties that are seen as friendly to the U.S. The number, though not a surprise, is a reminder of the movement's ability to mobilize followers with an intensity that many rival groups, hobbled by years in exile, lack.

Zamili, 44, who was arrested in a raid by U.S. forces on his Health Ministry office at the beginning of the 2007 U.S. troop buildup, appears to have gained the second-highest number of votes for any Sadr candidate in the country.

The U.S. military once hoped Zamili would be convicted in an Iraqi court for the excesses of Sadr's militia, the Mahdi Army; Zamili was put on trial in connection to killings, kidnapping and corruption, but the charges were dismissed for lack of evidence. Now, people in Sadr City visit his home, proud to be seen with a man they greet as their defender in Iraq's darkest days.

The soft-spoken politician, who has been studying the "Rubaiyat," the classic collection of verse by Omar Khayyam, for a graduate degree in comparative literature, is ready to assert the Sadr bloc's rights in the halls of power. He said he expected that the movement would ask for prominent positions in ministries, including Cabinet posts and director general positions, as well as leadership slots in the army and police.

"Our numbers are large and can delay some projects, many projects and laws," he said, in a warning for those who might try to isolate the Sadr movement, including Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, a fellow Shiite who launched an offensive against the Mahdi Army in 2008. "We want success for the government." [...]

Even as he stated his innocence, Zamili made it clear that he believed the Mahdi Army had the right to defend Iraq's Shiites from the Sunni Arab suicide bombers who have attacked the country's majority population in the wake of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

"We didn't [commit] the acts of car bombs or killing because of one's [religious] identity. We were defending ourselves, and people like me defended the Ministry of Health," Zamili said, surrounded by an approving audience. "If a thief breaks into your home and you defend it, are you the criminal and the thief is the victim?"

..about choosing the party that won the civil war for you?

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 21, 2010 3:58 PM
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