ISCI regards the Sadrist movement as a barrier to its ambition to establish an autonomous Shiite region in southern Iraq similar to the Kurdish region in the north. The Sadrist movement, with its large base of support in Baghdad, supports a strong central government and is opposed to ISCI’s plans. Basra, which is Iraq’s second largest city, a major port and adjacent to the country’s southern oil fields, is at the centre of this rivalry.
In a statement on national TV yesterday, Maliki rejected calls by Sadrist leaders for him to leave Basra and start negotiations. “We entered this battle with determination and we will continue to the end. No retreat. No talks. No negotiations,” he declared. Maliki issued a 72-hour ultimatum on Wednesday for militiamen in Basra to surrender their weapons or face the consequences. However, the Sadrist militias have ignored the deadline, which was due to expire today, and entrenched themselves in large areas of the city.Read More