Sadr Movement Said to be Splintering

Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that the Sadr Movement led by Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr is facing the possibility of internal factionalism, among imprisoned members and among those under Iranian influence.

Muqtada al-Sadr had created two special operations units within his Mahdi Army, the League of the People of Truth (led by Sheikh Qays al-Khaz`ali) and the Party of God Brigades-Iraq (led by Shaikh Ahmad al-Shaybani). These two were referred to as “special groups” by the US military and the Iraqi government, and focused on attacking US and British troops. Many were captured by the US and imprisoned, and the US military has allegedly been working with members of these two units to convince them to become moderates. In that case, they would be released, and could attempt to organize Sadrists under their own leadership, challenging Muqtada. The US military has not, however, yet succeeded in convincing the two groups to play this role. The Iraqi government of PM Nuri al-Maliki has also reached out to these two and to other armed Shiite militias, seeking reconciliation.

Sheikh ABu Muhammad al-Sa`idi, leader of the Mahdi Army, condemned the plans and the language of the Iraqi government, saying that calling the two groups “moderate” was an attempt to cast those Sadrists still loyal to Muqtada as ‘extremists.” Al-Sa`idi ridiculed the Baghdad government over this diction: “Yesterday the League and the Brigades were outlaws and extremists and supported by Iran, and today they have become moderates.” He said that some of the imprisoned might make a marriage of convenience with the US, but aht it would not last. The leader of the Sadrists in parliament, `Aqil Abed Husayn denied that the Sadr Movement could ever fragment. He denied that that special groups would make such a deal in order to gain their release from prison. He excused Sheik Khaz`ali of the League of the People of Truth on the grounds that though he was a loyal Sadrist, the Americans had mistreated him in prison.

It is also alleged that several months ago Ali Sumaysim departed the Sadrists to form his own offshoot, to which former Sadrist leaders such as Adnan al-Shahmani and the former minister of heath Abd al-Muttalib Muhammad Salih have adhered. It is said that this schism is connived at by a religious authority in Iran, in view of the likelihood that Muqtada al-Sadr himself will soon finish his seminary studies and become an authoritative cleric.

Some of the schisms besetting the movement were gotten up by other members of the Sadr clerical dynasty who are seeking to displace Muqtada.

Al-Hayat also reports on the crisis of clean water in Iraq. It notes that in order to avoid polluted water, the people of Najaf are now getting their water from water-carriers (saqa). The new breed, however, eschews leather bags and donkeys for sleek SUVs and vans.

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