Arrest Warrant for Muqtada al-Sadr
Dan Senor in a briefing in Baghdad on Monday revealed that an arrest warrant had been issued months ago “by an Iraqi judge” and implied that it would now be served.
US television cable news is doing its best to obscure the real issues here.
1. They keep asking where Muqtada is and calling him a “fugitive.” Muqtada announced that he is in his father’s mosque in Kufa, and there is no reason to doubt this. He hasn’t fled and his whereabouts are well known.
2. Talking heads both from Iraq and from the ranks of the US retired officers keep attempting to maintain that Muqtada’s movement is small and marginal. One speaker claimed that Muqtada has only 10,000 men.
In fact that is the size of his formal militia. Muqtada’s movement is like the layers of an onion. You have 10,000 militiamen. But then you have tens of thousands of cadres able to mobilize neighborhoods. Then you have hundreds of thousands of Sadrists, followers of Muqtada and other heirs of Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr. Then you have maybe 5 million Shiite theocrats who sympathize with Muqtada’s goals and rhetoric, about a third of the Shiite community. The Sadrists will now try to shift everything so that the 5 million become followers, the hundreds of thousands become cadres, and the tens of thousands become militiamen.
3. That an “Iraqi judge” issued a warrant is just misdirection. The Coalition Provisional Authority appointed the judges, who are not independent actors. The CPA clearly decided if and when such a warrant would actually be used. For some reason the CPA decided to move against Muqtada on Saturday, provoking his reaction. Since we now know there was a warrant for his arrest, it is not even clear that it was an over-reaction. If the CPA was going to arrest him and execute him for murder, what would he have to lose by demonstrating that he would not go quietly? Journalists kept asking me today why Muqtada chose to act now, why he didn’t just wait for the Americans to leave. The answer is that the CPA had clearly targetted him, and forced his hand.