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Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki is terrified Sadr movement will win the coming provincial elections. This is a major reason for the campaign against Sadr now.

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ZAA NKWETA, PRESENTER: On Sunday, the Iraqi government approved draft legislation barring political parties with militias from participating in upcoming provincial elections, following earlier demands by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to disband his Mahdi Army or face political isolation. To give us further insight, we go to Real News Analyst Pepe Escobar.

PEPE ESCOBAR, THE REAL NEWS ANALYST: So what’s the meaning of this draft law? It’s something completely surreal. There are 28 militias in Iraq. The American army is in fact one more militia among others—well equipped, of course. The most important militia of them all is the Badr Organization. Badr Organization is the military arm of the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq. It’s part of the government religious party supported by the Americans. So, in fact, the al-Maliki government is planning a law that will outlaw part of its own government. So it makes absolutely no sense. The Sadrists are not as important, the Mahdi Army is not as important as the Badr Organization as a militia. And on top of it, nobody knows if the al-Maliki government will have enough votes to pass this law, because soon it’s going to be summer in Iraq, and as everybody knows, nobody works in Iraq fifty degrees Celsius temperatures in summer. Muqtada al-Sadr, in all western reports, is always branded as a firebrand cleric or a radical cleric. There’s nothing to it. In fact, he’s a very, very clever politician. He knows that al-Maliki is after him and the Sadrists, because the government in Baghdad and the Americans are terrified that the Sadrists are going to win the next provincial elections in October. This also means that the battle of Basra a few weeks ago that became battle of Baghdad as well is not over. In fact, the encroaching of Sadr City, which is the main area of concentration of the Sadrists, continues. Sadr City’s basically a gigantic slum—it could be northern Africa or near the Pakistani tribal areas—with 3 million people. They are poor, they are angry, they are seething, and they come from all parts of southern Iraq. And now they’re being totally strangled. The whole area’s being strangled. To get to Sadr City there are only two boulevards from the other parts of Baghdad, and then there’s a main boulevard that crosses Sadr City, and then you can drive, in fact walk, around a labyrinth inside the slum. What the Maliki forces are doing with the help of the Americans is to completely strangle this area. They already strangled twelve mini-neighborhoods among the 79 neighborhoods that compose Sadr City. So this in a nutshell is what the Maliki government, the embattled Maliki government, and the American forces in Baghdad are doing. Their new surge in fact is a gulag. They are trying to transform Sadr City into a 3 million-people gulag in the center of Baghdad.


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

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Pepe Escobar, born in Brazil is the roving correspondent for Asia Times and an analyst for The Real News Network. He's been a foreign correspondent since 1985, based in London, Milan, Los Angeles, Paris, Singapore, and Bangkok. Since the late 1990s, he has specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central Asia, including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He has made frequent visits to Iran and is the author of Globalistan and also Red Zone Blues: A Snapshot of Baghdad During the Surge both published by Nimble Books in 2007.