Where in the World is Mookie Al-Sadr? by R. Moran

Rick Moran
Muqtada al-Sadr, the firebrand anti-American Shia cleric whose Mahdi Militia has fought the US military almost constantly since the occupation began has up and gone missing.

Or at least faded into the background:


On March 3 a Kuwaiti news article translated by MEMRI claimed that the notorious Iraqi militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr was in an Iranian hospital, comatose from “food poisoning”.

The rumor capped one of the most bizarre political absences in recent recent Iraq history. Sadr was a powerful politician who led the Madhi Army militia in Iraq. His forces had fought the US Marines in Najaf; challenged the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani for the leadership of Shi’ism in Iraq; built extensive alliances with the Ayatollahs in Teheran and aspired to create a force the equal of Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

The Nation’s Naomi Klein even called him “the single greatest threat to U.S. military and economic control of Iraq.” Suddenly, having declared a ceasefire with US forces in Iraq, Sadr vanished from the scene, having left for Iran. His ostensible purpose: to study theology.
Al-Sadr apparently has decided that he has been something of a failure and that he needs to rethink his strategy:
In a written response to a query from a group of followers asking why he hadn’t been seen in public for so long, Sadr said he had decided to devote himself to a period of study, reflection and prayer after failing in his core mission to rid Iraq of the U.S. occupation or to turn it into an Islamic society….

“So far I did not succeed either to liberate Iraq or make it an Islamic society — whether because of my own inability or the inability of society, only God knows. The continued presence of the occupiers, on the one hand, and the disobedience of many on the other, pushed me to isolate myself in protest. I gave society a big proportion of my life. Even my body became weaker, I got more sicknesses.”
Richard Fernandez believe al-Sadr's situation exposes the cleric's weak position with the government:
Sadr’s admission was devastating to analysts who claimed Sadr’s ceasefire was really responsible for the decline in violence accompanying the Surge. As late as February 22 2008, the Huffington Post rejoiced that Moqtada al Sadr would extend the ceasefire “responsible for Surge success”.

At the about the same time Bill Roggio noted that Sadr really had little choice but to extend the ceasefire between the Mahdi Army and Coalition Forces in order to conceal the extent of his weakness.

Under the pressure of the Surge, many of Sadr’s political allies were clamoring to rejoin the government, while the remnants of his militia were being cannibalized by more aggressive commanders and the Iranian Qods.
Mookie blew it, plain and simple. A year ago he was riding high, nearly destroying the government of Nouri al-Maliki when he had his ministers walk out of the cabinet and his legislators boycott parliament. But instead of ruining Maliki, al-Sadr's actions strengthened the PM's hand. And as was mentioned above, allowed the US to go after the Mahdi Militia without too many limits.

If al-Sadr waits much longer, he may find himself frozen out of government altogether. Unless he makes a bid for parliamentary seats in the elections next fall, he will become even more irrelevant to Iraqis and would be in danger of disappearing from the national stage.

One huge headache for the American military has been relegated to forced quiescence largely as a result of our change in strategy. One can only hope that this state of affairs continues long enough for other Shia leaders to rise up and take his place - leaders more in tune with a new Iraq than the cleric with a gun who is responsible for so many American deaths.
Muqtada al-Sadr, the firebrand anti-American Shia cleric whose Mahdi Militia has fought the US military almost constantly since the occupation began has up and gone missing.

Or at least faded into the background:


On March 3 a Kuwaiti news article translated by MEMRI claimed that the notorious Iraqi militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr was in an Iranian hospital, comatose from “food poisoning”.

The rumor capped one of the most bizarre political absences in recent recent Iraq history. Sadr was a powerful politician who led the Madhi Army militia in Iraq. His forces had fought the US Marines in Najaf; challenged the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani for the leadership of Shi’ism in Iraq; built extensive alliances with the Ayatollahs in Teheran and aspired to create a force the equal of Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

The Nation’s Naomi Klein even called him “the single greatest threat to U.S. military and economic control of Iraq.” Suddenly, having declared a ceasefire with US forces in Iraq, Sadr vanished from the scene, having left for Iran. His ostensible purpose: to study theology.
Al-Sadr apparently has decided that he has been something of a failure and that he needs to rethink his strategy:
In a written response to a query from a group of followers asking why he hadn’t been seen in public for so long, Sadr said he had decided to devote himself to a period of study, reflection and prayer after failing in his core mission to rid Iraq of the U.S. occupation or to turn it into an Islamic society….

“So far I did not succeed either to liberate Iraq or make it an Islamic society — whether because of my own inability or the inability of society, only God knows. The continued presence of the occupiers, on the one hand, and the disobedience of many on the other, pushed me to isolate myself in protest. I gave society a big proportion of my life. Even my body became weaker, I got more sicknesses.”
Richard Fernandez believe al-Sadr's situation exposes the cleric's weak position with the government:
Sadr’s admission was devastating to analysts who claimed Sadr’s ceasefire was really responsible for the decline in violence accompanying the Surge. As late as February 22 2008, the Huffington Post rejoiced that Moqtada al Sadr would extend the ceasefire “responsible for Surge success”.

At the about the same time Bill Roggio noted that Sadr really had little choice but to extend the ceasefire between the Mahdi Army and Coalition Forces in order to conceal the extent of his weakness.

Under the pressure of the Surge, many of Sadr’s political allies were clamoring to rejoin the government, while the remnants of his militia were being cannibalized by more aggressive commanders and the Iranian Qods.
Mookie blew it, plain and simple. A year ago he was riding high, nearly destroying the government of Nouri al-Maliki when he had his ministers walk out of the cabinet and his legislators boycott parliament. But instead of ruining Maliki, al-Sadr's actions strengthened the PM's hand. And as was mentioned above, allowed the US to go after the Mahdi Militia without too many limits.

If al-Sadr waits much longer, he may find himself frozen out of government altogether. Unless he makes a bid for parliamentary seats in the elections next fall, he will become even more irrelevant to Iraqis and would be in danger of disappearing from the national stage.

One huge headache for the American military has been relegated to forced quiescence largely as a result of our change in strategy. One can only hope that this state of affairs continues long enough for other Shia leaders to rise up and take his place - leaders more in tune with a new Iraq than the cleric with a gun who is responsible for so many American deaths.