Me And You Can Go Toe-To-Toe, No Maybe

So the Iran-and-U.S.-aligned Shiite party known as the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq is going around telling reporters that it’s going to whup the Sadrists in the forthcoming Iraqi provincial elections. Uh huh. From Sam Dagher of the Christian Science Monitor:

If the enthusiasm of the audience is any indication, ISCI and its affiliates are poised to do well at the polls, a development that some fear would exacerbate a bitter intra-Shiite struggle for power between ISCI and its allies and the movement of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

"The Supreme Council and its allies are in the forefront now while the Sadrists are absent, but we can see signs already that the struggle among the Shiite religious parties will turn into a violent and armed one again, especially in the south," says Azer Naji, director of strategic and political studies at a research center at Basra University in southern Iraq.

"This may happen as we get close to the elections or even after the elections," he says.

Oh, great! Good to know some things don’t change: it was just last August that Sadr’s Mahdi Army brawled with ISCI-aligned forces in the holy city of Karbala, which so horrified Iraqi Shiites that Sadr ordered a (somewhat porous) ceasefire. If Naji is right, the elections will touch off a renewed wave of violence.

And that’s being agnostic about predicting a winner. There isn’t much evidence on display that ISCI, an Iranian creation, has remotely the loyalty among Iraqi Shiites that Sadr’s people do. That’s probably a contributing factor in the decision of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki — an ISCI ally — to attack the Mahdi Army ahead of the fall election. Still, ISCI may be right about something: Sadrists have been predicting election fraud for weeks. Here’s Time’s Mark Kukis:

Sadr’s followers are confident in taking on the government at the polls, but they are already accusing the government of laying the groundwork for a rigged election that would hand provincial power to the Sadrists’ main rivals, the government-aligned Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council and its own militia, the Badr Brigade.

"They know that the Sadrist movement will win in the south," said a senior official from the main Sadr office in Baghdad who spoke on condition of anonymity. "I don’t think we’re going to have a chance."

Finally, there’s a hilarious quote in the CSM piece from Badr commander Hadi al-Ameri:

"The Sadrist movement used to cover up its illegal actions with the excuse that they were engaged in a political struggle with (ISCI). They can’t say this anymore," says Badr’s Ameri. "At the end, it’s a struggle between the government and gangs of outlaws that belong to their movement."

al-Ameri commanded a militia that kidnapped, tortured and murdered Iraqi Sunnis. His Badr Corps were the O.G. death squads of occupied Iraq. He was pretty OK with "illegal actions" in 2005.

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