Al-Sadr orders Cabinet ministers to withdraw
BAGHDAD – Radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has ordered his Cabinet ministers to withdraw from the government to protest arrests of leaders in his Shiite militia and the prime minister’s failure to back a timetable for U.S. withdrawal, two officials in the organization said Sunday.The six ministers will officially withdraw from the government Monday, said Saleh al-Aujaili and Hassan al-Rubaie, both members of al-Sadr’s bloc in parliament. They said al-Sadr’s 30 legislators will continue their usual participation in parliament.The men said the order came in a statement from al-Sadr to his ministers asking them to “announce your withdrawal from the government.” Al-Sadr’s followers hold six positions in the 37-member Cabinet.Such a pullout by the very bloc that put Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in office could collapse his already perilously weak government. The threat comes two months into a U.S. effort to pacify Baghdad in order to give al-Maliki’s government room to function. Leaders of al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army have been arrested in the crackdown.On Wednesday, al-Sadr’s political committee issued a statement warning its Cabinet members might quit, a day after al-Maliki rejected an immediate U.S. troop withdrawal.U.S. authorities say that al-Sadr is in Iran, but his followers insist he is in seclusion somewhere in Iraq.