Muqtada al Sadr back in Iran

Muqtada-Sadr-image.jpg

Muqtada al-Sadr.

Mahdi Army leader leaves Iraq and goes to Iran for second time this year

Muqtada al Sadr, the leader of the Shia Mahdi Army and the Sadrist bloc in parliament, has left Iraq and is in Iran, military sources told Reuters. An anonymous U.S. military intelligence official and a military officer stationed in Iraq told The Long War Journal the Reuter’s report is accurate, but would not say when they believe Sadr left Iraq. Sadr’s flight from Iraq and return to Iran comes as Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki issued an unusually strong statement calling for Sadr’s Mahdi Army to disarm, and Iraqi Security Forces continue to battle his Mahdi Army in southern Iraq.

“We have heard statements from officials in the Sadr movement that they are against using arms and that they condemn those who hold weapons,” a statement issued from the prime minister said, AFP reported. “This puts us in front of a fact we must face courageously: If those are Sadrists, then Sadrist leaders disavow clearly those who carry guns … Therefore, these gunmen are infiltrated Saddamist and Baathist gangs and robbers using this movement as a front,” Maliki said. Sadr’s aides have warned Prime Minister Maliki to back off from calling the Mahdi Army to disarm.

Iraqi, U.S., British and other Coalition forces have battled Sadr’s Mahdi Army inside Baghdad in Sadr City, as well as in the south in Diwaniyah, Samawa and Basra. Sadr’s Mahdi Army fractured into a radical Iranian backed element of about 3,000 fighters, and the “Noble Mahdi Army,” which has been working with the Iraqi government and Coalition forces. This was part of a year-long campaign to divide the Mahdi Army. Sadr lost control of the Mahdi Army when he fled Iraq with his paymasters and senior leaders, leaving the militia rudderless and without pay. It is believed he returned to Iraq to gain a measure of control over his fractured forces.

The “rogue” elements of Sadr’s Mahdi Army have been repeatedly attacked by Iraqi and U.S. Special Forces due to their relationship with the Iranian-backed “Special Groups” or “Secret Cells.” These Iranian backed cells are receiving arms, funding, training, and guidance from Iranian Qods Force.

Sadr first left for Iran in January shortly after the announcement of the Baghdad Security plan, and returned to Iraq on May 25, over four months later. Since his return, Sadr has attempted to position himself as a moderate, nationalist leader, but with little success. He has flirted with the Anbar Awakening movement, and negotiated with Sunni political parties. His Sadrist bloc withdrew from Prime Minister Maliki’s government, and abandoned its six cabinet level positions. The Sadrist bloc’s 30 members have also boycotted parliament.

Sadr held two rallies, both of which had poor showings, and had to cancel a July 5 march to Samarra to protest the attack on the Shia holy site of the al Askaria mosque. Sadr’s spokesman claimed the Iraqi government wouldn’t provide security, but based on the past poor showing of his demonstrations, there are questions that Sadr may have harmed his image with another poor showing.

Sadr’s return to Iran harms his image as an Iraqi nationalist. He has criticized the leadership of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC, formerly the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq) for sheltering in Iran in the past, only to accept aid, comfort, shelter and cash from Iran’s Qods Force.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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19 Comments

  • DJ Elliott says:

    Don’t inflate the market.
    He is not worth 50 camels.
    Wanted dead or alive: 50 Iraqi Dinar.
    A high price would make him seem more powerfull than he is…

  • Let’s see, Mookie once again flees to Iran as his Mahdi Army continues to fragment. Check. Al-Qaeda is feeling the heat to the extent that Zawahiri releases a whining video begging for “unity” in Iraq. Check. The Iraqi security forces are improving, their government is beginning to make progress, and we seem to have finally found a strategy that works. All check.
    So, naturally, it’s time for the Republican “wets” to jump ship so the Senate can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
    Argh.

  • joe says:

    It seems that Maliki has finally give the green light to taking on the Mahdi Army. Maliki has chosen Hakim in the feud between the two parties and Id expect to see large scale classes between the two parties in the south in the coming weeks. Sciri is not strong enough to take on Sadr in baghdad so that job will likely fall to the U.S. It will be interesting to see how the Mahdi Army fights this time. I do not think they will fight toe to toe after the losses they took last time.
    As far as Iran is concerned theyll probably countinue to back both sides. Iran has historically been closer to Sciri and Dawa, in fact it founded and organized both those movements. Iran is smartly hedging its bets.
    Looking at the overall picture in the middle east and the rest of the region the chaos is rapidly picking up and I expect to see large scale fighting occuring in the next weeks and months in several places.
    In Pakistan the Red Mosque issue will come to a conclusion soon and that situation along with the possible capture of Mullah Omar will likely result in war between extremists and the government of Pakistan. //english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/D247F279-7354-4F0C-A128-D7B162D1E6EC.htm
    Also Syria has told its citizens to leave Lebanon by July 15th because of expected violence and Hezbollah said it will set up a rival government then. That front may likely open soon and take in Israel and Hamas.
    Its going to be a wild and likely very violent summer.

  • Dan says:

    Sadr’s influence is diminishing by the day. He will self-destruct of his own accord. The absolute worst thing that we and the Iraqi government could do right now would be to make a martyr out of him. While it would no doubt be EXTREMELY satisfying to see him laid out on a slab in a morgue a la Uday and Qusay Hussein, the smart move is to let him cower under the skirts of his protectors in Iran.

  • //instapundit.com/archives2/006929.php

    MUQTADA AL-SADR runs to Iran. “Sadr’s flight from Iraq and return to Iran comes as Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki issued an unusually strong statement calling for Sadr’s Mahdi Army to disarm, and Iraqi security forces continue to battle his…

  • Bob says:

    Sadr must be on the slim fast diet in order to escape Iraq dressed in a burka ( the preferred jihadi method) as a women.

  • Darth Sadr runs to mommy

    Muqtada al Sadr back in Iran Apparently neither the US nor Iraqi forces, nor the governments that control them, are playing nicely. I continue to think that Sadr probably thought he was on the verge of victory last November, then had the (Persian?) rug…

  • crosspatch says:

    If he bolts to Iran again it would mean one of two things; either he has reached the conclusion that he is irrelevant in Iraq or all hell is getting ready to break loose and he is getting out of the way.

  • Brother Moqtada’s Traveling Salvation Show

    Moqtada al-Sadr has once again fled to Iran, apparently after a split widened in recent weeks between the leader of the Mahdi Army and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Sadr’s support had been seen as key for Maliki early in…

  • Tony says:

    Joe, could you please provide a citation to your statement that Iran “founded and organized” Dawa?

  • Tony says:

    Wikipedia and all the sources I have seen show that Dawa was founded in the late 1950s by Sadr’s family, well before the Iranian Revolution over 20 years later.
    //en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_Dawa_Party

  • joe says:

    I was to loose with my words when I said the Iran founded and organized DAWA. That honor belongs to the Sadr family. The fact remains that Dawa and the IRGC has been historically close and DAWA supported the Islamic Revolution in Iran. It also conducted terrorist operations along with Hebollah in the 8os.
    //www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1573978,00.html

  • RedRaider says:

    Great report as usual. This is very good news We need to continue to play “wedge politicts” in Iraq while allowing the new Iraqi governement to demonstrate its abilities.

  • Tony says:

    Thanks Joe-
    For a thorough understanding of what is really going on in Iraq, it is essential to be fully conversant of the differences between SCIRI and Dawa.
    The two should never be confused. I know of no Iraqi that conflates them.

  • ajacksonian says:

    Time to remind the Mahdi Army that the military is a Nation sanctioned affair. ‘Militias’ without sanction need to be called for the thugs they are and any politician that supports them needs to explain themselves and why they support outlaws. Outside the law. Forswear the militias that have no State sanction, or you look at the barrel of a gun pointed at you.
    Took the IRA a couple of decades to learn that.
    Legitimate political parties have no need of ‘militias’, and the ends of those that have been armed are manifest in their tyrannical capabilities when they kill their way to power. Sadr fits that mold perfectly. Well past time to treat him for the means he uses to try and get power and consorting with a foreign Nation to do so. Not just an outlaw. A traitor to his people.

  • David M says:

    Trackbacked by The Thunder Run – Web Reconnaissance for 07/09/2007
    A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day…so check back often.

  • Don Bistrow says:

    al-Sadr and his militia are in deep trouble. This is good news along with the current accomplishments in the surge.
    Too bad this news is being ignored in the D.C. Beltway.
    Votes in Congress are now taking the place of reality, on both sides of the aisle, while our fighting forces turn the tide against al-Qaeda and Iranian sponsored hit men.
    When does the real message start coming through? This worries me more than anything and does not bode well for the military.

  • Bulldog says:

    Don, I agree with what you are saying . Their seems to be good news all around that most Americans will not hear. I am talking about well intentioned folk who are somewhat dependent on MSM. I know people are responsible for educating themselves on issues but many are busy working their butts off and or raising children etc. The power plays and vote counting is hard to watch. I am spreading the gospel about Bill and The Fourth Rail. Cracker in Florida.

  • al-Sadr Back to Iran:

    for the second time this year. “[It] harms his image as an Iraqi nationalist.” (Bill Roggio @ Fourth Rail)…

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