Video purportedly showing the preparation of the military parade near Samara
Saraya al Salam (Peace Brigades), an Iraqi Shia militia led by powerful cleric Muqtada al Sadr, recently paraded its forces near the city of Samarra in Iraq’s Salahadin province. The parade was meant to showcase the militia’s “Rapid Intervention Brigade” and its preparedness to be deployed in the region.
Last month, Saraya al Salam announced that a regiment of its Rapid Intervention Brigade (RIB) was being sent to Samarra, which sits north of Baghdad. Earlier this week, the militia’s Facebook page advertised a large-scale military parade for the brigade. The parade featured several tanks, rockets, mortars and a significant amount of ground troops. The RIB was estimated to have around 1,000 troops in its formation last year.
It is unclear if all the troops and vehicles belong to the Peace Brigades or if some are property of the Iraqi Army, however, the banners, patches, and flags on display indicate that the parade featured units belonging to the RIB exclusively.
Saraya al Salam is the current incarnation of the Mahdi Army, Sadr’s militia that fought US forces in pitched battles in Baghdad and central and southern Iraq between 2004 and 2008. Sadr purportedly disbanded the Mahdi Army in the spring of 2008 after US forces battled the group in Baghdad’s sprawling neighborhood of Sadr City, and created the Promised Day Brigade. Saraya al Salam was formed in 2014 to combat the Islamic State as Iraqi forces in northern, central, and western Iraq disintegrated in its wake.
Last year, Sadr said that US troops in Iraq are a target for his militia. “If the time comes and the proposed bill is passed, we will have no choice but to unfreeze the military wing that deals with the American entity so that it may start targeting American interests in Iraq and outside of Iraq when possible,” Sadr said. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, US troops ‘are a target for us,’ Iraq’s Muqtada al Sadr says.]
Photos from the military parade: