US troops ‘are a target for us,’ Iraq’s Muqtada al Sadr says

Sadr-website

Muqtada al Sadr, from his website.

Radical Shia cleric Muqtada al Sadr said that US troops supporting the Iraqi military’s offensive to retake Mosul from the Islamic State should be targeted by his militias.

Sadr, who openly fought US troops several times during the US occupation, made the statement in response to a question from a follower on how they should respond to the US military’s deployment of additional troops to aid Iraqi forces in retaking Mosul.

“They are a target for us,” Sadr said on his website, according to Reuters.

US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announced last week that the US military would send 560 more troops to Iraq to capitalize on recent Iraqi military success in Qayarra south of Mosul.

“These additional US forces will bring unique capabilities to the campaign and provide critical enabler support to Iraqi forces at a key moment in the fight,” Carter said on July 12 during a visit to Baghdad.

Sadr has previously said his Peace Brigades was preparing to deploy to Mosul to fight the Islamic State.

In the past, Sadr has threatened to attack US forces operating in Iraq against the Islamic State. In May 2015, Sadr said he was prepared to unleash his militia and target US personnel inside Iraq and beyond if the US House of Representatives passed a bill that would have recognized Kurdistan and Sunnis in western Iraq as their own independent countries.

“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. “If America persists then it will cease to exist.”

Sadr controls two militias inside Iraq: the Saraya al Salam, or Peace Brigades, and the Liwa al Yaom al Mawood, or Promised Day Brigade. Both groups are offshoots 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.

In February 2015, he purportedly suspended the activities of the two militias, however the groups have been spotted fighting in Iraq since then. Sadr also frequently claimed to have halted the activities of the Mahdi Army during the US occupation, but these ceasefires rarely held.

While Sadr has denied receiving Iranian support, the US military and government consistently contended that his militias have the backing of Qods Force, the special operations branch of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp. US military officials called the Iranian-backed militias who battled American forces up until 2011, such as Hezbollah Brigades and Asaib al Haq (League of the Righteous), the Mahdi Army Special Groups.

With the backing of Qods Force, Sadr’s militias maintain the ability to strike US interests in the Gulf region and the Levant.

Iran backs multiple Shiite militias that are fighting the Islamic State, all of which are hostile to the US. One of these groups, Hezbollah Brigades, is listed by the US as a Foreign Terror Organization, while senior leaders in others, such as Asaib al Haq, Kata’ib Imam Ali (Imam Ali Brigade), and Harakat Nujaba, are listed by the US as Specially Designated Global terrorists. Additionally, the Popular Mobilization Committee, the Iraqi-government sanctioned body that organizes the Shiite militias, is led by a Specially Designated Global Terrorist who the US described as “an advisor to Qassem Soleimani,” the commander of the Qods Force.

[See LWJ report, US begins airstrikes against Islamic State in Tikrit, supports Shiite militias.]

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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8 Comments

  • Ray says:

    Target him back, directly, not just his fighters.

  • Dave Roberts says:

    We could continue fighting these guys for as long as we want – nothing will ever be settled permanently. If, and when, ISIS has been overcome in Iraq and Syria, we should get our troops out of there.

  • It is time to kill this man. He is directly responsible for the deaths of many coalition soldiers during the Iraq War. His militia is not needed to defeat ISIS. The fact that the US would even allow his involvement makes me sick and this should be made clear to the Iraqi government. If this guy is not removed from the battle scene, then we should not be involved. Let the Iraqis and Iranians see if they can get the job done without our air support and special operations soldiers.

    • Pampita says:

      What are the US doing in Iraq by the way ? You invade his country and you whine when his militias strike back. Come on, be serious…

  • jack says:

    find him and kill him!

  • Paddy Singh says:

    Saddam was removed by the US, Sadr hated Saddam, but attacked and fought the Americans after his Shias were liberated by the US. The Americans were kicked out of Iraq by Malliki another Shia who owed his existence and freedom to them. The Isis was born from the Sunnis who were being cleansed by the Shias. and threatened Iraq The Americans returned to help the Iraqis free their captured territories captured by Isis who Sadr hates but he wants to also attack the Americans who returned to help. Does all this make any sense? Only to Bush and Blair who were responsible for this madness.

    • Pampita says:

      Don’t forget the US and their Saudi friends helped forge ISIS as admitted by Michael Flynn and Wesley Clarck.

  • irebukeu says:

    So what do we do? Do we defend these idiots who can obviously defend their own nation all the whilst we earn the eternal enmity of the Sunni ummah and our own growing military/political class who are being told they are being cheated and are not cared for by political interests. The same interests who advocate for more war. Constant war.
    Right now we have just enough troops there that we actually depend on these clowns for our own safety. They will let us down if only to get us more involved or show us what time it is etc. etc. The point is we can expect a huge security let down that would not have occurred if “western troops” were responsible for total security. This will be the call for more troops on the ground.
    First troops to train in safe areas then troops to train near the front. Then at the front. Soon those troops at the front will need “actual security” the lives lost being blamed on some hapless politician or five. The remedy is always American troops and American tax dollars.
    This nonsense will result in a call for more of the same. It should instead be a wake up call to all who care about the lives of Americans in Iraq.
    but enough…

Iraq

Islamic state

Syria

Aqap

Al shabaab

Boko Haram

Isis