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Update: Unlikely Alliances Emerge from Iraqi Elections

Juan Cole has a very interesting revelation, via monitoring of Iraqi television, about post-election Iraqi politics:

Amir al-Kinani, head of the Independent Free People Trend, which is backed by the Al-Sadr Trend, revealed that his trend has agreed, in principle, with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, in his capacity as head of the State of Law Coalition, to form an alliance in the governorate councils won by the two lists.

So the political followers of the cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who have been stridently opposed to the American occupation since 2003 --- at times quite violently, are now linking up with the Prime Minister's Daw'a Party? That is quite a turnabout, given that al-Maliki risked his political future less than a year ago by working with US troops to push back the Sadrists in Baghdad's Sadr City and Basra.

Cole lays out a clear, effective explanation. Both Daw'a and the Sadrists are religious parties seeking an Islamic state. Al-Maliki, having established his authority, would like to see American forces drawn down as soon as possible, as do the Sadrists. The major disagreement between the two --- that al-Maliki has been seeking a legislative basis for the US withdrawal, while the Sadrists are opposed to any legal recognition --- was effectively put outside the political arena when the Status of Forces Agreement was pushed through at the end of December.

If I was a US military commander or political representative, I would be thinking very hard about any statement that Iraqis, or at least Iraqi political leaders, welcome a continued American presence. The alignment of coalitions isn't looking very promising for that assertion.

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