Iraq’s Moqtada al-Sadr warns Mehdi Army ready to fight

BBC News reports:

Iraqi cleric and militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr has threatened to take up arms against US troops unless they leave the country by the end of the year.

In a rare interview, he told the BBC he believed US forces would not stick to an agreement to withdraw from Iraq.

The US still has about 46,000 troops in Iraq, due to have withdrawn by January 2012.

On Thursday, tens of thousands of the cleric’s supporters rallied in Baghdad, calling for the Americans to leave.

The Pentagon has been pressing the Iraqi government to decide quickly whether it will ask some to stay on beyond the deadline.

In Sadr City, Moqtada al-Sadr’s Baghdad stronghold, his supporters marched in military formation, their boots trampling on the flags of the US, UK and Israel.

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2 thoughts on “Iraq’s Moqtada al-Sadr warns Mehdi Army ready to fight

  1. Colm O' Toole

    I read a while ago that Al Sadr hopes to turn the Mahdi Army into a larger version of Hezbollah. Wouldn’t be surprised if the IRGC and Hezbollah have got people in Southern Iraq helping to train up the Mahdi army up to Hezbollah’s standards.

    In many ways I think the history of the Shiite guerilla groups Hezbollah and Mahdi mirror each other in both there origins and interests. Both were formed in the choas of civil wars Lebanon in the 1980’s and Iraq post 2005. Both were formed with the initial goal to protect Shiite Muslims in sectarian societies.

    In Hezbollah’s case they emerged victorious from the Civil War and went from sectarian violence to targetting the occupation forces of Israel during the 1990’s. It seems very likely that the Mahdi army are emerging strongly from the Sunni-Shiite civil war in Iraq will be well placed to recreate that with the Americans.

    Alot of Hezbollah’s early successes were due to them being seen in the Arab world as being the army that kicked the Israeli’s out of Southern Lebanon. No doubt Al Sadr is hoping that the people of Iraq and the region will see him as the man who kicked out the Americans from Iraq.

    So far the histories of the two groups are very similar but of course the Mahdi Army has the chance to be greatly more powerful than Hezbollah due to the size of the Shiite population in Iraq vs Lebanon and also the fact that the Mahdi Army would have access to oil revenue and the important port city of Basra.

  2. Dieter Heymann

    It is often overlooked that the SOFA agreement signed by President Bush in 2008 also demands the withdrawal of all civilian support personnel, meaning anyone paid by the DoD. On numerous occasions I have pointed out that these persons must leave Iraq even before the soldiers to prevent another Fallujah from happening which would force President Obama to stay and even increase the military presence in Iraq.

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