Remember all of the fawning coverage of Muqtada al Sadr as the new kingmaker and the most powerful man in Iraq after his return to the country on Jan. 5? So much for a triumphant return by Sadr; he’s fled Iraq yet again (he has already spent three-plus years in Iran, between 2007-2011). This time he fears being killed by members of the Asaib al Haq, or the League of the Righteous, the Mahdi Army splinter group, and being jailed for his involvement in killing a prominent Shia cleric in 2003. From Asharq Al Awsat:
Well informed Iraqi sources in the Shiite holy cities of Najaf and Qom have revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat that the leader of the Sadrist movement, Moqtada al-Sadr, who returned to Iran after spending only two weeks in Iraq, left after receiving threats from the Asaib Ahl al-Haq group, and due to fears that the arrest warrant, issued against him against the backdrop of the assassination of Shiite cleric Abdul Majid al-Khoei in April 2003, would be enforced.
Informed sources in the Iraqi holy city of Najaf disclosed to Asharq Al-Awsat that “those observing what is happening did not expect al-Sadr to remain in the city of Najaf for long, because of rumours about serious threats being issued against him by the Asaib Ahl al-Haq group. The Asaib Ahl al-Haq group is said to have issued a statement declaring the killing of Moqtada al-Sadr lawful. This statement was then distributed to some residents of Najaf, who subsequently detailed its content to the leader of the Sadrist movement.”
The Najaf source also revealed that “sources close to al-Sadr informed him of their fears that governmental parties – in a reference to Nouri al-Maliki – will try to exploit the arrest warrant issued against him by a Najaf investigative judge in late 2003…for al-Khoei’s death.”
More on the Asaib al Haq here. This Iranian-backed terror group has emerged as the most powerful Shia terror faction operating in Iraq.
As we noted on Jan. 5, Sadr isn’t quite the powerful man he once was:
And Sadr doesn’t have nearly the street cred he had at the height of his power, in the fall of 2006 when Mahdi Army death squads terrorized Baghdad and other Iraqi cities. Sadr has now been reduced to squabbling with the Asaib al Haq, or League of the Righteous, a violent Mahdi Army offshoot that disdains Sadr.
Fleeing Najaf after receiving death threats, and fearing arrest over an eight-year-old warrant the Iraqi government has shied away from enforcing, show that Sadr isn’t all he’s made out to be in many media circles.