"Sadr Calls the Shots."
In his dreams. It was, as widely noted, a disappointment for the United States and a win for Iran that Maliki's new government includes an alliance with Sadr. The radical anti-American cleric has been living in Iran since 2007, and Tehran funds and arms elements of his militias. Now his movement has helped put Maliki over the top and will hold at least a few cabinet seats. When they were in government before, the Sadrists nearly destroyed the Ministry of Health as they used hospitals for secret prisons or as places from which to hunt down Sunnis. They made a mess of the Ministry of Transportation and the national airlines, and diverted public money to build their party.
But none of that means Sadr can run roughshod over the new government. Remember, Sadr was instrumental in making Maliki prime minister last time, too. But once in office, Maliki turned the tables. Amid their abuses of the ministries they controlled, the Sadrists also demanded more power and then dropped out of the government when Maliki refused them. That's when Maliki, in the spring of 2008, turned the Iraqi Army loose on the Sadrist gangs in Basra and several other cities. The offensive didn't crush the movement -- many of the militants melted away into hiding while a cease fire was negotiated. But that set back the Sadrists and their leaders vowed never to back Maliki again. (Some militants who Maliki's found and captured were among those he recently released in exchange for the movement's renewed support.)
The back-and-forth is a good example of what historian Phebe Marr describes as the age-old pattern for Iraqi politics -- "fight and negotiate, fight and negotiate."