President Bush to Meet with Powerful Shiite Leader

Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim could present President Bush with a new and different perspective on the crisis in Iraq.

Like Moqtada al-Sadr, Hakim is a Shiite cleric and the son of an influential Shiite leader.

But unlike Sadr, Hakim has experience as the head of an organized political party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or SCIRI. He also has military experience as the former head of the Badr Brigades, his party's militia.

SCIRI controls the Iraqi Interior Ministry, where former Badr Brigade members are accused of running death squads.

Sources in Hakim's office say that when he meets with President Bush, Hakim will push for expanding Iran's role in talks on Iraq's future, and will complain about what he sees as Saudi backing for Sunni Arab insurgent groups.

Some see the sectarian strife in Iraq as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which is accused of funding Shiite militias.

One line of thought here suggests that President Bush may ask Hakim to cooperate more closely with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

The prime minister is now beholden to Moqtada al-Sadr for the backing that got him his job, and he's been hesitant to crack down on Sadr's militia.

Stronger support from Hakim's group could give Maliki the backbone to try to force Sadr's group to disarm.



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