Just Another Guy with Opinions

Al-Sadr Flees Iraq….for Now

Posted by shadmia on February 14, 2007


Sayyed Muqtada al-Sadr Shiite cleric, ruler of Sadr City (a Baghdad suburb) and commander of the Mahdi army has fled Iraq and is reported to be staying with relatives in Iran. His Mahdi army has been accused of fostering and perpetuating much of the sectarian violence that has been going on in Baghdad.

In an earlier interview, La Repubblica an Italian newspaper, quoted al-Sadr as saying he feared for his life and stayed on the move constantly.

Al-Sadr said he is being targeted. “For this reason, I have moved my family to a secure location. I even have had a will drawn up, and I move continuously in a way that only few can know where I am,” he was quoted as saying by La Repubblica.

Al-Sadr’s departure from Iraq, some weeks ago, is believed to be the direct result of President Bush sending an additional 21,500 US troops to Iraq to quell the violence in Baghdad. In recent weeks some of his most senior personnel have been either arrested or killed. They include:

  • Ali Kahzim who ran al-Sadr’s political organization in volatile Diyala province northeast of Baghdad, was killed by U.S. forces at his home in Howaider village.
  • Khalil al-Maliki, a key figure in al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia in Basra, was killed by three gunmen in a drive-by shooting.
  • Abdul-Hadi al-Darraji, media director for the cleric’s political movement, was captured in an early morning raid and his bodyguard was killed.
  • Sahib al-Amiri, a senior al-Sadr military aide, was slain by American forces in the Shiite holy city of Najaf.
  • Abu al-Sudour, a top commander, was shot to death in a joint U.S.-Iraqi raid. He was hunted down in Sadr City.

It now appears as if Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki has stopped protecting al-Sadr’s Madhi Army under pressure from Washington. Al-Maliki owes his position as Prime Minister, in part due to the political support of Al-Sadr, and has in the past acted to protect the Mahdi army from US troops. With the waning support of the Iraqi leader the Mahdi army has been forced into retreat.

“Our top leadership has told us to lay low and not confront the Americans. But if Sadr City is attacked, if civilians are hurt, we will ignore those orders and take matters in our own hands. We won’t need orders from Sheik Muqtada (al-Sadr),” the midlevel commander said.Others in the organization said street fighters have been told not to wear their black uniforms and to hide their weapons, to make their checkpoints less visible. Reports from the growing number of neighborhoods controlled by the militias indicate fighters are obeying.

The increasing success of the American forces to rout out the top leaders of Mahdi Army has the organization changing tactics: “We’re no longer using cell phones except in emergencies. Some of our top commanders have not been home (in Sadr City) for a year because they fear capture”

The militiamen said al-Sadr himself had apparently gotten wind of the coming assault and ordered a reshuffling of the Mahdi Army command structure, transferring many leaders to new districts and firing others who were of suspect loyalty.

As part of the security crackdown, Lt. Gen. Abboud Gambar, Iraqi commander of Baghdad security announced:

  • The borders with both Syria and Iran would be closed for 72 hours
  • Curfew hours in Baghdad would be extended by one hour
  • Unlawfully seized homes should be returned within 15 days

These measures will hopefully ease the violence in Baghdad that has threatened to permanently divide the city along sectarian lines.

Sayyed Muqtada al-Sadr is not expected to remain in Iran. It will be interesting to see how his return to Iraq will be received by the American and Iraqi forces.

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