Thursday, August 30, 2007

Sadr "suspends" Mahdi Army

Moqtada al-Sadr, the book ignorant but extremely crafty street smart politician, has "suspended" attacks by his militia against Iraqi and Coalition forces. This is a great victory but needs to be followed up on.

Sadr is the son of a well respected cleric murdered by Saddam's regime. When the Coalition invasion of Iraq reached Baghdad Sadr quickly organized his father's followers and had them distribute food and implement security before the Coalition did. This created a power base among the urban poor Shia of Baghdad and nearby areas. In 2004 Sadr led two open rebellions against the Coalition forces, continued on-again off-again military attacks, and yet managed to become active in the political process.

Fortune began to turn against Sadr in 2007; however. Sadr left before the "Surge" could get to him and his militia split between various groups. The Coalition and Iraqi forces step up action against the Mahdi Army and Iranian-backed rogue elements known as Special Groups.

In response to their loses the Mahdi Army lashed out at enemies assassinating opponents even, possibly, a Shia Badr-backed governor. Killing Iraqis though is unpopular and counter-productive as al Qaeda has found out. The final straw was this weekend when Mahdi Army elements went on a rampage killing Badr militia and other Shia pilgrims in Karbala. These thuggish actions are costing Sadr the support he once enjoyed so he is "suspending" Mahdi Army activity. But with the lack of control of all of the Mahdi Army it waits to be seen if Sadr is still the major player he once was.

2 comments:

Dan tdaxp said...

The Badr Bridages is the armed wing of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (formerly the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, before they decided that the Revolution had been achieved through the liberation and elections), a group created and supported by Iran. (SCIRI would have been the client government of Tehran had conquered Basra during the Iran-Iraq War).

Attacking SIIC is stupid, and having an organization so diverse that lieutenants attack SIIC on their own is dangerous. Good move on Sadr trying to reign in his organization.

It's also smart because Sadr may be trying to wait out the Surge, allowing the Americans to target Baathists, Qaedists, and the like and leaving his guys alone.

Adrian said...

Sadr accomplishes a number of things:

While the American surge lasts, his fighters lay low and don't get killed, preparing for American withdrawal

He gains the moral high ground by voluntarily suspending all attacks

He can figure out who (at least nominally) is actually loyal to him

He allows Coalition forces to concentrate on killing his enemies, making him stronger

He can probably still operate through the Iraqi police/national guard/Army with plausible deniability.