I don't want to say I told you so: Moqtada al Sadr flexes his Political Power in Iraq on Anniversary of Iraq Liberation
But, I told you so: Wishful thinking on Moqtada al-Sadr from the Captain.
Captain Ed wrote:
And as for Sadr, this will destroy him and his Mahdi Army. ABC reports that Sadr wants to try to run the Mahdis from Teheran, but his credibility as a jihadi just tanked. Who's going to fight for someone who won't stand up for himself?
This is not the first time that Moqtada has gone off to Iran. If you've been Iraq watching, he's gone to Tehran and Qom rather frequently. It's not even the first time a large number of the Sadr leadership has gone with him, whatever the "leadership" that is with him means. It could mean advisors, etc.
It does not mean that Sadr will not be back or even that the return is a long time off. His party has thirty seats in the parliament. It seems like a bad move when he still has a lot of power to protect him, to just up and run, even if Maliki has publically gave the go ahead to dismantle the militias. Sadr has been far too wily in the last few years to simply throw that away on an unsubstantiated fear that he will get "JDAM"d in his house.
I doubt we were even thinking that considering the power within the Shia organization that he has and the serious disturbance it would cause in our "peace" efforts.
Second, I think many have forgotten that the leadership of the Iraq Shia have routinely taken refuge in Iran. Particularly, during Saddam Hussein's reign. There they were able to get money and political support that translated directly into political support in Iraq. That is why so many groups like SCIRI or DAWA were able to return post-Saddam, spin up a political structure and take power during the elections so quickly.
Please note the flags in the above pictures. There are no green or yellow flags. The flags are all Iraqi flags. A very clever nationalist play from the Iranian dwelling Moqtada since he has to aware the Cedar revolution (Lebanon) and the Orange Revolution (Ukraine) were both seen as "liberating" demonstrations where political party banners were banned to insure that the demonstrators spoke as "one voice" to their "true desires": freedom from the occupiers.
That is what Sadr has been doing in Iran this entire time. Getting some political savvy from the masters of cheap propaganda and collecting money to help bulk up his movement; money that has been sorely missing until the last "crisis" generated by Iran over the Brits drove up the oil prices and allowed them to drag in some much needed cash.
Frankly, after the British were taken, we should have expected some movement from Sadr. They are playing a political pincer movement on the Iraq situation: First one moves and feints, then the other shows up.
How do you know that Sadr got a giant influx of money?
Read the caption of this picture:
Iraqi supporters of firebrand Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr parade with a huge Iraqi national flag in Baghdad's impoverished district of Sadr City
Impoverished? Guess how much that gigantic flag would cost to make in the United States, much less those thousands of smaller flags and paraphernalia? How did all these folks, starving in a state of poverty, afford to buy these things?
Hopefully, al Sadr was just enough nationalist that he bought his Iraqi paraphernalia from Iraqi manufacturers and helped the economy.
The other really interesting "stage managed" part of this, besides the totally Iraq, all the time "vision" is that the march is on April 9. He is trying to accomplish many things.
1) Steal back the date from the United States as "Iraq Liberation Day" and make it completely Iraqi.
2) Re-Write history that will make al Sadr and the Shi'ites the "saviors" of Iraq.
3) Pretend that the Iraqis, particularly his mahdi army, could have "liberated" Iraq without the Americans.
Either way, Captain Ed, et al, you were incorrect to imagine that Sadr's leaving would hurt him.
He is practicing as the "Mahdi" with the "Mahdi's army" intent on fulfilling the duties of the Mahdi or at least giving a good appearance of it: ie, savior of the Shi'ite.