Like many other Iraqis, I had no idea who 'Jawad' al-Maliki was when it became obvious he was about to be made Prime Minister. He was chosen as a compromise because many thought he was weak and could easily be managed but little did they know he was about to become a strong leader with a mind of his own. I began to admire and respect Maliki after he proved himself to the Iraqi people to be a non-sectarian non-nonsense Prime Minister who would not hesitate to put his foot down and fight both Sunni and Shia militants. Any Prime Minister who feels confident in sending his army to both Sunni strongholds and Shia strongholds will always win the respect of the people.
Iyad Allawi, when he was Prime Minister, sent the army to Fallujah to deal with the Sunni terrorists and he also sent his army to Najaf, to deal with the Shia terrorists. This is one of the reasons why I voted for Allawi in the 2005 elections. Falluja burned on his watch and yet the majority of the inhabitants voted for him in these elections. In Najaf the turn of events were not as bloody as Falluja but Najaf is more sacred to the Shia than Falluja is to the Sunnis and so the sensitive nature of the attack raised a few eyebrows everywhere. Allawi would have succeeded in routing and humiliating the Mehdi Army in Najaf if it hadn’t been for a certain clique who pressured Allawi to stop fighting at a crucial point when it was clear he had won. That is a story in itself I guess.
Maliki’s onslaught against the Shia militias was much more dramatic and as a direct consequence earned him much more respect. When Maliki took the fight to the south in Basra against the Mehdi Army and other Iranian-backed militias rumours soon began to spread like wildfire of Hollywood-esque shoot-outs between the Iraqi Army and Mehdi Army. Rumours also began to circulate that Maliki was so close to being killed he was confined to specific rooms in one of Saddam’s Presidential Palaces because mortar fire got too close for comfort. Iraqi soldiers deserted and dropped their guns in the middle of the streets and some of them even turned their guns on Maliki and joined the rebels. It was absolute chaos and everyone was baffled.
Maliki was bold and the commander of the British forces was enjoying himself on a skiing holiday and never saw it coming. It was almost a week before the British military took part in the fight and it soon became apparent it was because the British struck a secret deal with the terrorists. British forces guaranteed for themselves no loss of life in exchange for a lawless Basra run by the militias. Once the fighting began the Americans immediately began to provide support to the Iraqi Army but the British had to honour their truce with the Mehdi Army and stayed well clear of any action. Throughout history, the British are not exactly famous for keeping promises but in this case they couldn't have found a more inappropriate time to actually honour a deal even if they tried.
In the end Maliki was successful, the Iranians lost the battle, and the Prime Minister’s name soon became synonymous with ‘security’ and ‘law’. Now it seems, to spite Allawi, Maliki has sent his men to Iran to try and broker a deal with the Sadrists, who have trumped their traditional rivals the Supreme Council, and it seems Moqtada is going to play a semi-key role in forming the new government. The Sadrists clearly won hundreds of thousands of votes and they have a democratic mandate to play this role but it is imperative they are not given any security posts. The Sadrist armed wing has already terrorised the population enough with their ministries, Islamic Sharia Courts, extra judicial executions and moral police and it would be both a crime and catastrophe to see these criminals legitimised and re-styled as police officers and soldiers.
It would be so easy, theoretically at least, for Maliki and Allawi to form a government but clearly neither is willing to swallow his pride and become the subordinate of the other so they will have to look far and wide for enough seats to be able to form a comfortable majority in parliament. To be honest I do not mind a government formed by either of the two - as long as the principles of justice and integrity are not sold, at any price, for seats and power.