Thursday, August 19, 2004

Trouble waiting round the corner

PV Vivekanand

MOQTADA Sadr appears to have managed to cut a deal with the interim government in Iraq and pre-empted a US-backed Iraqi security forces' storming of the Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf that would have possibly led to his capture or death.
He has agreed to disarm his Mahdi Army militia and leave the city and also integrate his movement into Iraqi politics.
However, one could not but be sceptical about the strength of the commitments in the deal. The priorities and approaches of Sadr and the interim prime minister, Iyad Allawi, might have converged on the compromise to defuse the crisis in Najaf, but the two are fundamentally poles apart in their visions of the future of Iraq.
Allawi has no choice but to follow the US-drafted course for Iraq since the US military has Iraq in a stranglehold. His political future is tied with the US version of Iraq for in the interim at least. That course would not allow him any room to have someone like Sadr who could pounce at the right moment and scramble the scenario.
Sadr is not of the mold where he would hold his peace while Allawi gets ahead on the US-designed course. Definitely, at some point, sooner than later, the two would clash, even if Sadr were to enter the evolving mainstream Iraqi politics.
With the guerrilla war showing little sign of abating, Allawi would be hardpressed to meet the basic demands of the people of Iraqi in a satisfactory manner, whether for water, power, food, jobs and security. Given that the south of Iraq had not been given a fair share of attention for development during the Saddam Hussein reign, the situation in that region is all the more precarious for Allawi as he tries to restore normalcy to the country.
As such, apart from the wide gap in ideologies with Allawi, Sadr would also have to confront the interim prime minister with the daily life issues of his people; that is, if Sadr follows the traditions of politics. On both counts, the scene is the perfect reciple for trouble pitting the two. The only question is how long will it take for fresh blood to spill.