Monday, March 05, 2007

Maliki under pressure

The BBC reports that the Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has condemned a joint British and Iraqi raid on the National Iraqi Intelligence Agency headquarters in Baghdad.

To justify their action in raiding the HQ, the British issued a statement that they had found "around 30 prisoners, including a woman and two children, who were being held, and many of whom showed signs of torture and abuse". This is important because Mr Blair based much of his case for war on Saddam Hussein's record of torture. In his now infamous speech on 24 September 2002, he specifically drew attention to Saddam's "routine butchering of political opponents, the prison 'cleansing' regimes in which thousands die, the torture chambers and the hideous penalties supervised by him and his family." Saddam and his family may no longer be around to supervise, but it appears the torture chambers and the hideous penalties are still be used in earnest. And Mr Maliki seems to be condoning their use.

It looks as if Mr Maliki is feeling the heat of a distinct increase in the pressure on the Shia population, who he has been criticised for favouring in the past. Also yesterday (Sunday) US and Iraqi troops entered Sadr City, a run-down Shia district of north-east Baghdad in their effort to crack down on the militias thought to be based there. Mr Maliki is apparently considering a Cabinet reshuffle in which it is rumoured he will sack the six supporters of the Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who criticised the security crackdown in the capital. Sadr made himself scarce shortly before the troop "surge" began.

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