Mahdist Cult Almost Defeated Iraqi

Mahdist Cult Almost Defeated Iraqi Army at Najaf
Wave of Bombings, Mortar attacks in Baghdad

Marc Santora of NYT reveals that the Iraqi army was very nearly overwhelmed and defeated by the Army of Heaven militia of the Mahdawiya millenarian movement near Najaf on the weekend. They had to call in not only US airstrikes but also US troops to save themselves from being surrounded and killed.

The Mahdawiya is a splinter group of the Sadr movement, which broke away in the late 1990s, and was led by Ahmad al-Hassaani al-Yamani of Diwaniya. He styled himself styled himself Ali b. Ali. b. Abi Talib, that is, he was claiming to be the return of an (otherwise unknown) son of Ali (d. 661), whom Shiites believe was the true successor to the Prophet Muhammad. The Mahdawiya leader is alleged to have been killed in Sunday’s battle.

Al-Hayat’s identification of this movement with another Sadrist splinter group, that of Mahmud al-Hasani al-Sarkhi, appears to have been incorrect.

The buzz in the Right blogosphere that the Mahdawiya is somehow linked to Iran is a profound falsehood. Sadrist splinter groups in Iraq generally are Iraqi nativist and deeply distrust Iran. These cultists wanted to kill Sistani (an Iranian).

The LA times reports:

‘ Every day someone claims he’s the Mahdi,” [Iraqi security official Ali Nomas] said.

Nomas said the leader of the hitherto unknown Heaven’s Army had told followers that he was a missing son of the Imam Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of the prophet Muhammad. Ali’s remains are entombed in Najaf.

“They believe that the Mahdi has called them to fight in Najaf,” Nomas said, adding that fighters had converged on the Najaf area from other predominantly Shiite cities in Iraq.

He lamented that Iraq’s death and destruction had convinced some Shiites that the end of days was coming.

“There’s nothing bizarre left in Iraq anymore,” Nomas said in a telephone interview. “We’ve seen the most incredible things.” ‘

McClatchy wire service gives some more details of the leader, including further pseudonyms.

Al-Sharq al-Awsat reports in Arabic that Ahmad al-Hassaani claimed to have descended directly from the heavens.

For more on the ideas of al-Hassaani, see Reider Vissar’s comments at Helena Cobban’s Just World News.

The claim of the Najaf authorities that the Mahdawiya has “al-Qaeda” ties is just propaganda and should not be taken seriously. They are embarrassed that there was Shiite on Shiite violence.

Dan Murphy of CSM has more on the background of Shiite millenarianism. I am quoted to the effect that the hatred of the Mahdawiya for the grand ayatollahs is akin to the sentiment among some Protestants that the pope is the anti-Christ.

Reuters reports numerous car bomb and mortar attacks in Baghdad on Monday. Also a sectarian attack in Kurdish territory:

‘ *TUZ KHURMATO – Five worshippers were killed when a rocket propelled grenade hit a Shi’ite mosque in the town of Tuz Khurmato, 70 km south of Kirkuk, police said.

BAGHDAD – Three mortars killed 11 people and wounded 28 more in Zaafaraniya, southeast of Baghdad, a police source said . . .

BAGHDAD – A bomb planted inside a minibus killed four people and wounded five others near al-Mustansiriya Square in northeastern Baghdad, police said. . .’

McClatchy says that police found 21 bodies in Baghdad on Monday. There was also heavy fighting in Baquba, Diyala province.

LAT also reports on the renewed tensions over the Shiite Askariya shrine in Samarra, the blowing up of which last Feb. threw Iraq into a whole new level of communal violence.

‘OK, if you say so’ Department:

The USG Open Source Center translates:

Iraqi Kurdish leader, Al-Sadr delegation discuss ties
Kurdistan Satellite TV
Monday, January 29, 2007 T14:46:23Z

Iraqi Kurdish leader, Al-Sadr delegation discuss ties

Text of report by Iraqi Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) satellite TV on 29 January

(Iraqi) Kurdistan Region President Mas’ud Barzani received yesterday a delegation of the Al-Sadr Current, led by the head of the movement’s bloc in parliament, Nassar al-Rubay’i, and comprising Al-Sadr leadership member and MP Falah Hasan Shanshal, leadership member and head of parliament’s Legal Committee Baha al-A’raji and leadership member and MP Salih Hasan Al-Agili.

In a meeting, relations between the people of Kurdistan and the Al-Sadr Current were discussed and the need for further cooperation in moving Iraq’s political process forwards was stressed. Moreover, views on the security situation in Baghdad were exchanged.

The visiting delegation shed light on the Al-Sadr Current’s operations within the political process and in the federal government of Iraq.

The need for cooperation between the people of Kurdistan and the Al-Sadr Current, with a view to serving the interests of the people of Iraq, was stressed.

(Description of Source: Salah-al-Din Kurdistan Satellite TV in Sorani Kurdish — Iraqi Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) satellite TV)

City/Source: Salah-al-Din

Muqtada is also sending his people to talk to fundamentalist Sunni leaders.

Abdul Aziz al-Hakim is still promoting the idea of a Shiite regional confederacy, an idea the Sunni Arabs and the (Shiite) Sadrists vehemently oppose.