In his statement, Sadr gave Maliki an ultimatum, calling on him to withdraw the Asaib Ahl al-Haq militants from the streets of Baghdad within 24 hours.
A senior security source in the Ministry of Interior told Al-Monitor that “special forces deployed in the streets of Baghdad, following news about the spread of militants in some towns. But he denied knowledge of who the insurgents are affiliated with.”
Sadr’s warnings were immediately accepted by the Sunnis. The protesters in Anbar “welcomed” Sadr’s “ultimatum to Maliki to withdraw the Asaib Ahl al-Haq militias” from the streets of Baghdad.
Abdul-Razzaq al-Shammari, spokesman of the political bureau of the protest square in Ramadi, said that the protesters “support the step taken by Muqtada al-Sadr.” In an interview with Al-Monitor’s correspondent, he said that “all Arab religious and social authorities and tribal leaders in the southern provinces should take a similar step before a human catastrophe happens in Baghdad.” He said that the militias are still committing criminal acts in Baghdad.
The Iraqi public is accustomed to strong statements by Sadr against his Shiite ally and rival Maliki. However, their strategic alliance has never been broken since the formation of a Shiite-dominated government as a result of the alliance between the Dawa Party and the Sadrist movement. Still, this does not mean that Sadr is not considering overthrowing Maliki, and the security deterioration may be an opportunity to do that.
Maha al-Douri, a Shiite politician in the Sadrist movement, called on Maliki to resign as prime minister.
Douri told Al-Monitor, “Maliki has two options, either to step down or [waive the post of prime minister] to a Shiite figure in the Iraqi National Alliance.” Douri said this would “spare the bloodshed of Iraqis.”
Ali Abel Sadah is a Baghdad-based writer for both Iraqi and Arab media. He has been a managing editor for local newspapers as well as a political and cultural reporter for more than 10 years.