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October 10, 2007
Report: Iran Helped Broker Al-Sadr-Hakim Deal
Last week's groundbreaking agreement between the two largest Shia militias actually originated in Tehran according to a report published in Stratfor which was reprinted in full in the Kuwaiti Times:
Sources in Iraq said in September that Al-Sadr had been in Iran, and it appears that this latest truce was signed in Tehran on Oct 3, when Al-Sadr was there to meet with al-Hakim. The Iranians have made clear to Al-Sadr that he must either cooperate and get his militia in line or face a massive purge led by Al-Hakim's Badr group. Al-Sadr appears to have complied. Just to show that some actions have unintended consequences, what has Iran spooked enough to try and broker a peace deal between the two rivals was the US military's success in bringing the Sunni tribes together to fight al-Qaeda. The Iranians fear that this move presages a united Sunni front against Iran - a pretty good guess.
Whether this truce will last is another question, however. Al-Sadr's Mehdi Army is highly fragmented and is not nearly as disciplined as the Badr Organization. Though Al-Sadr has been making efforts to purge his militia of dissidents and has largely followed through on previous cease-fire calls during US military crackdowns, there is no guarantee he will be able to exert full control over his movement. Al-Sadr also is going to be more resistant to heeding Iran's demands on a number of issues, particularly those concerning the division of oil revenues.
It also shows how far the mighty Mookie al-Sadr has fallen. Ever since agreeing to join the government of Nouri al-Maliki, Sadr's star has continued to fall. The move did not sit well with many of his more radical commanders who then went into the death squad business for themselves. Most of them have been systematically hunted down by the military while others have operated independently in the south, fighting for turf with the Badr Organization.
He's a marginalized figure now but still dangerous. He still has a core of around 2000 men with guns who can cause a lot of trouble if provoked. Whether this deal means he will re-enter the government and try to work with Maliki on reconciliation are big "ifs." But Sadr wants to be a player and it seems likely that he will seek to use whatever influence he has left to scuttle any deals between the government and the Sunnis.