Al Sadr Flees to Iran

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 8 months ago

ABC News has broken a report about al Sadr fleeing Iraq to Tehran, Iran, where he has family.  This is reported to have occurred two to three weeks ago, and would not be different behavior than other elements of the insurgency, whether Sunni or Shi’a.  In The Enemy Reacts to The Surge, I discussed the fact that AQI had left Baghdad for the Diyala Province under orders from Al Masri.  In The Surge and Coming Operations in Iraq, I pointed out that there were a large number of insurgents who were said to be heading towards Syria.  The Mahdi army was ordered to lay low and avoid a direct confrontation with the U.S. forces, and U.S. checkpoints were positioned, probably too late, in an attempt to catch the insurgents as they fled to the surrounding areas.  The politicians, religious leaders and tribal leaders of the Diyala Province had requested that their province be subject to the same security plan as Baghdad.

The insurgents’ intention is to wait out the surge, and with the corruption of the Iraqi political scene with militia and Iranian influence, when the surge is finished, the Iraqi government may not be capable of continuing the security provided by the U.S. forces.  According to one military official, Al Sadr is afraid that “he will get a JDAM dropped on his house.”  But there may be more to the story than simply seeking safety in Iran.  There are fractures in al Sadr’s political and militia operations, and it isn’t clear whether they will join the political process.  However, the departure of al Sadr is not expected to be permanent.

A ragtag but highly motivated militia that fought U.S. forces twice in 2004, the Mahdi Army is blamed for much of the sectarian strife shaking Iraq since the Samara shrine was bombed by Sunni militants a year ago, and thus they have been targeted by the Baghdad security plan.  Two key members of al Sadr’s political and military organization were killed last week, the latest of as many as seven key figures in the al Sadr organization killed or captured in the past two months.  The deaths and captures came after al Maliki, also a Shi’ite, dropped his protection for the organization.  Shi’ite leaders insist that the Shi’ite militias flourished because the U.S. and its allies could not protect civilians, and as I have pointed out numerous times, the force size from the cessation of conventional operations was inadequate.  The charges are probably correct, although not the only reason that security was not forthcoming.  Sectarian strife has been brewing for many years.

It remains to be seen what use the U.S. makes of this opportunity.  As I have discussed before, the surge is not long or large enough to bring permanent security to Iraq, and it is dubious whether Iraqi security forces can purge itself of sectarian influences enough to step into the gap.

Taking al Sadr out early in the war and counterinsurgency would have been preferable, but destruction of his political and military machinery and marginalization of him and his influence might come in a close second in terms of its effect on pacification of Iraq.

  • walrus

    I’m afraid I have to take issue with some of your statements here.

    1. First of all, it is an unconfirmed rumor with no attribuatbel source that says Sadr is in Iran. Prof. Juan Cole thinks it is possible but unlikely. Sadr is not known for his love of Iran, there is another group of Shiites called SCIRI (which I don’t know much about) that is much more aligned with Iran than Sadr.

    2. Its not the Mahdi army thats killing Americans, thats the Sunnis. The shiites are killing Sunnis so by rights they are theoretically on our side. The Sadrists have something like 30 MP’s in the Iraqi Parliament so they are also a political force.

    3. As for “taking out” Sadr early, such an act would be tantamount to political assassination. Sadr’s Father was a major opponenent of Saadam Hussien’s regime. It would be ironic since he was executed by Saadam Hussien for his son to be executed by America. Sadr is an Iraqi nationalist politician with a rather large following.

    4. You have three main groups fighting amongst themselves. The Sunni Militias who are targetting Americans and Shias and the Shia militias who are targetting Sunnis. Why does it make sense to target Shia militias?

  • Herschel Smith

    First of all, you are correct. It is confirmed only by MSM reports, sourced by U.S. intelligence. As for other independent sources, we lack this at the moment. As a matter of fact, Sadr’s lap dogs have denied that he fled. At the time, I’ll take U.S. Intel over Sadr’s lap dogs, awaiting what happens in the future.

    I had no problem with the killing of Saddam’s sons. The Sadrists have indeed killed U.S. troops. I have no problem with dropping a JDAM directly into his bedroom.

    No, we clearly have many more wars than this going on in Iraq at the moment. I cited no less that eight identifiable wars in my article entitled “Hope and Brutality in Anbar.” Once again, please do try to be studious prior to posting comments. Most of my other commenters are.

  • Dave N.

    This is progress (if it’s true), but I’ll agree it would have been better to have eliminated al Sadr earlier when we had the chance. He’s a warlord, among other things. People who lead private armies in war zones where decent people are trying to establish representative government and institute a rule of law are fair targets. Having MPs loyal to him is not a get-out-of-jail-free-card for the problem of his being a warlord and running around with his own army. Armies are for nations. Political parties and religious groups don’t get to have their own armies.

  • Denis Murphy

    Here’s a reaction to the Sadr story by an Asia Times guy who usually gets it right on Iraqi politics and seems not to have a hidden agenda. — Denis

    where’s Sadr?

  • Herschel Smith

    Thanks Denis. Currently studying.


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This article is filed under the category(s) Iraq and was published February 14th, 2007 by Herschel Smith.

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