Sadr’s Pledge

This is very interesting:

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Influential Iraqi Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr would dissolve his Mehdi Army militia if the United States started withdrawing troops according to a set timetable, a spokesman said.

Now there are some obvious caveats here.  One he may be bluffing of course.  Two, he may not have control over a whole mess of elements in the Mehdi Army who won’t disarm even Sadr is serious about doing so.

That said, Sadr’s history is to say what he wants to do in public.  He said he was going to rise up in 2004 if the Americans didn’t leave and he did.  His latest pronouncement is that he wants to make the Mehdi Army into a social organization with only a small military wing.  This would fit with the overall trajectory and history of the Sadrist movement particularly the organization built by his (murdered by Saddam’s henchmen) father Ayatollah Mohammed Sadeq al Sadr–pictured above with Moqtada.  The Sadr movement is a movement of Shia millernarianism based on bringing justice to the poor, particularly the Shia.

Sadr repeatedly called on the Sunnis, particularly influential Sunni clerics, throughout the early years of the war for a fatwa against al-Qaeda in Iraq.  They didn’t (recall prior to the Awakening, the Sunni insurgency in many cases allied with or even merged into Salafi jihadist movements), Sadr warned them repeatedly, and then finally snapped after the bombing of the Samarra mosque in 2006 and unleashed his killers on the Sunni cleansing Baghdad essentially of all Sunni.

Sadr had always predicated himself on nationalism so his movement becoming involved heavily and brutally in the Iraqi Civil War hurt the reputation of his followers.  He is seeking to restore legitimacy to the movement by returning to social aid/religious education and resistance to the Americans (not the Civil War against the Sunnis).  Depending on how things shake down (i.e. whether the Civil War reignites) as the Americans draw down, Sadr may not have much of a choice except to be drawn back into Shia-Sunni violence.

He wants to position his movement as for the people against the corrupt non-service rendering Iraqi central government (while still holding seats within the Parliament, playing a both in and out game).

All of which is to say, this proclamation should not simply be dismissed by the Americans or by pro-war right-wing blogosophere as further proof of Sadr’s defeat (which they have been claiming roughly every six months for the last 6 years).

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Published in: on August 8, 2008 at 8:36 am  Leave a Comment  
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