Iraqi troops capture Mahdi Army military leader

Iraqi troops, backed by US advisers, captured a senior leader in a Mahdi Army offshoot group with links to Iran during a raid in Baghdad.

The senior leader of the Promise Day Brigade was detained in northern Baghdad, with the help of intelligence gathered from both US and Iraq security forces.

The Promise Day Brigade commander, who was not identified, was “believed to be facilitating the distribution of weapons and funding to PDB [Promise Day Brigade] attack groups throughout Baghdad,” the US military said in a press release. “Attack groups then use the weapons and funding to conduct deadly acts of violence against civilians and security forces in Iraq.”

The US military said the commander “is allegedly tied to PDB [Promise Day Brigade] leaders operating from safe havens in Iran.”

The Promise Day Brigade was formed by anti-American Shia leader Muqtada al Sadr during the summer of 2008 after he announced he would disband the Mahdi Army and formed a small, secretive military arm to fight Coalition forces in June. The group has not been linked to any major attacks since its formation last summer.

The Iraqi military has stepped up operations against the Promise Day Brigade and the Mahdi Army since the beginning of November, when two members of the PDB were captured in Baghdad on Nov. 6. Starting with that capture, 18 members of the Promise Day Brigade and the Mahdi Army, including two commanders, have been arrested in Baghdad and Amarah [see list below].

The biggest catch took place on Nov. 29, when Iraqi forces captured the leader of the Promise Day Brigade in Amarah. That same day, Iraqi officials announced they were seeking to capture a senior member of the Qods Force, the special operations branch of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

Iran has backed a host of Shia terror groups in Iraq, including the Mahdi Army and the Promise Day Brigade, the Asaib al Haq, and the Hezbollah Brigades [see LWJ report, “Iraqi forces search for Qods Force agents” and “Ramazan Corps and the ratlines into Iraq” for more details on Iran’s involvement in Iraq].

List of Promise Day Brigade and Mahdi Army operatives detained since November:

Dec. 9, 2009: Iraqi security forces detained a senior Promise Day Brigade leader in in Baghdad.

Dec. 7, 2009: Iraqi security forces detained two Promise Day Brigade members in Baghdad.

Dec. 6, 2009: Iraqi security forces detained a Mahdi Army commander and three fighters in Baghdad.

Dec. 4, 2009: Iraqi security forces detained three Mahdi Army fighters in Baghdad.

Nov. 29, 2009: Iraqi security forces detained the leader of the Promise Day Brigade in Amarah.

Nov. 27, 2009: Iraqi security forces detained three Promise Day Brigade fighters were captured in Baghdad.

Nov. 13, 2009: Iraqi security forces detained a Mahdi Army member in Baghdad.

Nov. 7, 2009: Iraqi security forces detained three members of the Promise Day Brigade in Baghdad.

Nov. 6, 2009: Iraqi security forces detained two members of the Promise Day Brigade in Baghdad.

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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  • Cerberus says:

    Great article as always.
    I recall that “facilitator with direct links to leadership in Iran” has usually followed up by “has been released by the US.”. Any reason to believe this will turn out differently?

  • Neo says:

    For years the government of Iraq has done many things to signal a willingness to accommodate Iran. They have freed captured Iranian operatives, they have sent envoys both official and unofficial, and they have attempted to boost economic ties. For all its attempts and overtures toward accommodating Iran, the Iraqi government has gained absolutely nothing.
    It should be evident by now that the only Iraqi government that Iran will accept is a Hezbollah led government under the direct control of Iran. Iraqi Shiites would not be allowed independent governance, per se, but would instead govern as vassals to the Hezbollah party in Iran. At the same time the Shiite religious center in Karbala would be greatly diminished and subjugated to Qom, its religious authorities dispersed and diluted, if not directly disposed of.
    If Iraqi Shiites want to be self governed in either a religious or secular state, they will inevitably have to fight Iranian proxies for control over Iraq. Even the mildest attempts at accommodating Iran have met an unyielding hard line, the latest attempts being no more successful than earlier attempts.
    The idea of having a religious state still resonates with much of the Iraqi Shiite population, but the understanding has always been that the political movement would be Iraqi and based in Karbala. The religious political parties in Iraq still are pretty slow to recognize reality, but they aren’t entirely blind to the fact that Iran is not offering self governance. The current Iran political leadership is not going to offer self governance in the future either.
    There is no love lost between the Iraqi religious parties and the United States. The Iraqi’s are as anxious to lose meddling outsiders as anyone in a similar situation. However undesirable it may be, a continued relationship with the United States is their only real chance at political independence in the face of Iranian domination. Many Iraqi’s realize this. The problem is, the Americans are a fickle political partner, and have been repeatedly proven to be unreliable over the long term. There is always the potential of the Americans pulling the rug from underneath any international partner. So Iraqi’s will continue to play the double game and attempt to appease both sides.
    In the end, appeasing Iran is bit like appeasing a crocodile. Offer a crocodile a limb and he will always try to take you under. It’s in his nature to do so. Iraq is like a baby hippo, once he grows large enough the local crocodiles will leave it alone, any sign of weakness though, and even a hippo will be devoured.

  • Alex says:

    I’ve definitely seen what you mean, but I have a slightly different take:
    Nouri al-Maliki tried to make nice with Iran from 2006 to the present. Through all of 2004 to 2006, when Iraq had a sovereign government, things were a complete mess. It was an open secret that Iran was behind much of the Shi’ite led violence. Maliki sees this, and then sees that the US does not have the political will to confront Iran, and he sees that the ISF is still in its infancy–so he appeases.
    Fast forward to December 2009. Iyad Allawi, an opposition candidate to Maliki, has made taking a harder line with Iran part of his campaign platform. I do not think that appeasement is a permanent standpoint. In a direct confrontation, Iran would defeat Iraq militarily–only assuming that nobody else gets involved. My opinion is that a direct confrontation would end disastrously for Iran, as I could see Kuwait and Jordan coming to Iraq’s aid–say nothing of the United States, and say nothing of whether or not Iranian commanders would even follow their orders when they read the writing on the wall.
    Remember, Iraq fought Iran for eight years with a majority Shi’ite army. Saddam’s leadership was Sunni, but his army was not. Religious affiliation may mean a lot in Iran and Saudi Arabia, but it isn’t the be-all end-all in Iraq.

  • David M says:

    The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 12/11/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

  • Freedom Now says:

    Neo and Alex,
    I agree with you both. Alex’s perspective doesnt necessarily contradict Neo at all. Neo never wrote that the government is just as inclined to appease Iranian incitement of violence in Iraq as they have been in the past.
    At the very least we can say that since “Operation Charge of the Knights” Maliki has definitely shown a harder stance towards Iran’s proxies. Despite whatever extent (more, less or in equal amounts) that the Iraqi government appeases the Mullahs, the fact is that they still continue to do so, but perhaps to a lesser degree.
    Iraq suffers from the same problem that the US does. They harbor a strong contigent of “dissenters” who sympathize with the aims of our enemies. (I am not saying that they ally themselves to our enemies, but rather they have some similar goals). These parties hinder the unity of our people and our military/political goals. I wish our Iraqi allies the best of luck and hope that one day we come to terms with each other so that we recognize our kinship as comrades in arms.

  • Neo says:

    “Alex’s perspective doesn’t necessarily contradict Neo at all.”

  • I think Iraq must fight agains Iran, because Iran will destroy all their enemy using nuke.


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