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Can Iraq's Sadrists prove their nationalist credentials?

The kidnapping of Peter Moor has unveiled divisions and Iranian influence within the movement of Muqtada al-Sadr.

The idea that Sadrists were, by contrast to the ISCI, staunch Iraqi nationalists and largely independent of Iranian influence has been undermined by events surrounding the kidnapping and release of Peter Moor. Sadrists are not exclusively Iraqi nationalists who do not cooperate with Iran. In fact, since 2003, the Iranians have been successful in their policy of dividing the Sadrists by attracting some Sadrist operatives away from the mainstream movement, including the so-called Special Groups and Asaib al-Haq, or Leagues of Righteousness. Both groups are directly funded and trained by Iran’s IRGC to carry out assassinations, kidnappings and bomb attacks against foreign troops, Iraqi civilians and Iraqi security forces.

The League of Righteousness kidnapped five Britons from the Iraqi Finance Ministry building in downtown Baghdad on May 29, 2007 and killed four of them, who were guarding of Peter Moor, a computer expert, who was released on 30 December in return for freeing the group’s leader Qais al-Khaz’ali. The kidnapping operation is believed to have been organised by the IRGC’s Quds Force.  The group is said to have also carried out a raid on the Karbala Provincial Joint Coordination Centre in conjunction with the IRGC, killing five US soldiers in January 2007.

During the summer of 2008, Muqtada al-Sadr formed a new military arm called The Promised Day Brigade  (PDB), or in Arabic Liwa’ al-Youm al-Maw’ud, after he had announced he would disband his Mahdi Army militia.  Sadr said the duty of this newly formed military arm was to fight coalition forces. Sadr's new force has been accused of cooperating with Iranians and receiving  arms and money from them and the IRGC’s control of Sadr affiliated militias has become more apparent.

Last October, PDB engaged in a military confrontation with Asaib al-Haq for control of Sadr City, the stronghold of Sadrists, and PDB was reported to have defeated Asaid al-Haq and destroyed a house of Abdul Hadi al-Darraji, a leader in Asaib al-Haq’s command and formerly the Mahdi Army. Since then, PDB has been increasing its control of Sadr City. The episode revealed the deep divisions between Sadr affiliated militias.

Despite all these facts, the Sadrist mainstream and Sadrist parliamentarians have repeatedly proclaimed their nationalist credentials, claiming to be opposed to the American occupation of Iraq and the al-Maliki government!

About the author

Shatha Al Juburi is an Iraq and  Middle East political analyst, researcher and journalist. She has worked for several think tanks and consultancies including "Babylon Centre for Research and Strategic Studies", "Control Risks" and "Exclusive Analysis" and  "APS Consultants".

 

 


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