Muqtada al-Sadr and his loyalists will be banned from upcoming elections if the Mahdi Army doesn't disband, Nouri al-Maliki said today, in his toughest rhetoric yet against the popular cleric. Sadrists say the Iraqi PM has no constitutional power to make that threat, but even if lawmakers succeed in banning parties that operate militias, the backlash could be violent, the AP reports.
Sadr supported Maliki in 2006, but now the Shiite leaders are bitter rivals. Sadrists say the prime minister’s moves against them—like the recent offensive against the Mahdi Army in Basra—are attempts to diminish Sadr’s political standing ahead of this fall’s elections. Meanwhile at least five American soldiers were killed yesterday by roadside bombs and rockets flung into the Green Zone.