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Iraq Profile: Moqtada al-Sadr
by sources
Saturday Apr 3rd, 2004 4:51 PM
Moqtada Al-Sadr was born in 1974, the son of one of the most illustrious Shi'a religious families in Iraq, the Al-Sadr family. His father, Ayatollah Muhammad Sadeq Al-Sadr, was assassinated together with two of his sons by the Saddam Hussein regime in 1999. After the death of his father, Moqtada became a student of Iranian Ayatollah Kadhem Al-Ha'iri. Aside from his native country, Iraq, Iran is the only other country Moqtada is familiar with, and his relations with the Iranian religious establishment invite speculations about his politics. Moqtada Al-Sadr admitted that the situation in Iraq today differs from the situation that prevailed in Iran during the Islamic revolution in 1979. He said: "The political and social nature of Iraq will not allow the repetition of the Iran experiment."
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Unlike Al-Sistani, who has not left his home in six years and who has communicated with the outside world through intermediaries, Moqtada Al-Sadr is media savvy. While he does not shy away from conflicts, he is careful not to go overboard. With name recognition, thanks to his father, whose photographs adorn every store front in the Al-Sadr city, he is capable of attracting tens of thousands of followers from across Iraq. His greatest appeal is to the poor and the disenfranchised, and not a few of Saddam's former supporters who share his abhorrence of the Governing Council.
Base of Power:
Al-Sadr City – an Autonomous Entity Since the defeat of Saddam, the city named after him, Saddam City, has become Al-Sadr City, named after Moqtada Al-Sadr's father. Inhabited by more than one million Shi'a loyal to Al-Sadr, the city has developed its own municipal, educational, medical, and social services. In addition, there are "courts" presided over by young judges, followers of Moqtada Al-Sadr, who adjudicate conflicts between people, and whose verdicts are carried out by "security committees." The courts follow the Shari'a (Islamic law), and those who refer to them accept their verdicts as binding. There are observers who compare these young student-judges to the students of the religious schools in Pakistan who later became the nucleus of the Taliban movement. As part of the Islamization of life in Al-Sadr City, Al-Sadr issued a Fatwa forbidding the sale of videos and of liquor.
Read More
http://www.memri.de/uebersetzungen_analysen/laender/persischer_golf/irak_sadr_11_02_04.pdf

BBC Profile: Moqtada Sadr
In the first weeks following the US-led invasion, Moqtada Sadr's followers patrolled the streets in the poor Shia suburbs of Baghdad, distributing food.
His name clearly has powerful resonances - the Shia district of Baghdad, Saddam City, has been renamed Sadr City.
In June 2003 he established a militia group, the Mehdi Army, in defiance of coalition arms controls, pledging the Shia religious authorities in the holy city of Najaf.
He also announced the establishment of a rival government to the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, but the move came to nothing.
Moqtada Sadr has also set up a weekly newspaper, al-Hawza. The US-led authorities announced a 60-day ban on the newspaper on 28 March 2004, accusing it of inciting anti-US violence.
The young cleric is known for giving fiery sermons which urge the application of Islamic law while appealing to Iraqi national pride.
In contrast to more moderate clerics such as Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Moqtada Sadr calls on Shia spiritual leaders to play an active role in shaping Iraq's political future.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3131330.stm

Wikipedia Profile:
Hojatoleslam Muqtada al-Sadr (b. 1974?) is a young Iraqi Shi'a cleric, the son of the famous Shi'a cleric Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr. The elder al-Sadr, a well-respected figure throughout the Shi'a world, was killed with two of his sons by the Saddam Hussein government in February 1999 in Al-Najaf, the power-center of the al-Sadr clan
...
Muqtada is vocally opposed to the American occupation and has stated that he has more legitimacy than the American-appointed Iraqi Governing Council. In September 2003, he declared a shadow government in opposition to the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) that is currently governing Iraq. It is common belief that al-Sadr wishes to create an Islamic theocracy in Iraq, although al-Sadr himself has stated that he wishes to create an "Islamic democracy". Though he has always opposed the American occupation, and has harsh words for anyone he considers as supporting it, at times he has hinted that if the Governing Council is given more authority and expanded to include "other parties", he might be mollified.
Al-Sadr commands strong support (especially in the Sadr City ghetto in Baghdad, named after his father), and has raised a militia dubbed the "Imam Mahdi Army", which has several times engaged in violent conflicts with occupation forces. He is rumored to be responsible for the assassination of Imam Abdul Majid al-Khoei and several other prominent attacks, including the car-bombing assassination of rival Shi'a leader Ayatollah Sayed Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim.
The CPA has on several occassions threatened to arrest al-Sadr, but so far has not attempted to do so, possibly due to the threat of civil unrest as a result.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muqtada_al-Sadr

What is his base of support?
Young, impoverished Iraqi Shiites, many of whom are concentrated in Sadr City, a vast Baghdad slum of 2 million previously called Saddam City and renamed for the senior Sadr after Saddam’s fall. One reason for his popularity: his aggressively anti-U.S. pronouncements tap a vein of frustration among Shiites in a way that Sistani’s more moderate stance does not. Sadr’s followers have been making a play for support in Basra and other Iraqi Shiite towns. Sadr, like Sistani and the Shiite hierarchy, is based in Najaf, a city holy to Shiites because it contains the tomb of Ali ibn Abi Talib, the Prophet Mohammed’s cousin and son-in-law and the top leader, or Caliph, of Islam in the 7th century. But in Najaf and Iraq’s other holy Shiite city, Karbala, Sadr’s support remains very limited, says Juan Cole, an expert on Iraqi Shiites at the University of Michigan.
What actions have his supporters taken to challenge U.S. authority?
Since the fall of Baghdad, Sadr supporters have seized control of many aspects of life inside Sadr City—appointing clerics to mosques, guarding hospitals, collecting garbage, operating orphanages, and imposing Islamic dress codes, according to a report by the International Crisis Group. Because the neighborhood remained relatively peaceful—few anti-coalition attacks have occurred there—U.S. authorities did not interfere much with Sadr’s organization until September, when they arrested a Sadr-affiliated cleric who appeared to be backing attacks on coalition forces. On October 16, Sadr’s faction—whose challenges to U.S. authority were increasingly brazen—attempted to take over the building that housed the offices of the U.S.-appointed Sadr City neighborhood council and install its own leaders. U.S. forces moved in and kicked out Sadr’s men, arresting 12.
http://www.cfr.org/background/background_iraq_alsadr.php

Other Profiles:
Guardian UK: http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,1186164,00.html
Al Jazeera: http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/815FF50A-4D63-43CB-A404-84DF9E6CDF70.htm
Global Security: http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/para/al-sadr.htm

TIMELINE:

October 2003
A day after al-Sadr announced the formation of his "Iraqi government" in defiance of the US-led occupation, a large crowd gathered in the city of Najaf, pledging their whole-hearted support.
"We are ready to sacrifice our souls for you, Sadr," chanted the demonstrators as they roamed the streets of the city.
A firebrand cleric, al-Sadr had announced the formation of the government during his weekly sermon in the town of Kufa.
http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/62D93B71-232E-414F-B111-D8BF9511A34E.htm

November 1st 2003
WASHINGTON; In a high-stakes escalation of US strategy in Iraq, the Bush administration has decided after an intense internal debate to work with Iraqi security forces to crack down on the radical Shiite leader, Muqtada Sadr.
Administration officials were reluctant to disclose details of the new approach for fear of tipping their hand to Sadr. But they said the Pentagon had concluded it was crucial to show resolve in the face of Sadr’s attacks over recent months on Americans and their Iraqi allies.
“A decision was made to move against Sadr head-on because he crossed a red line. The US military believes he is responsible for the deaths of Americans and Iraqis and is actively hostile to the American presence,’’ explained Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former CIA officer and now a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Gerecht, an expert on Shiite Islam, has occasionally advised the administration about Iraq.
The decision to clip Sadr’s wings carries risks because it could trigger a reaction within the Shiite Muslim community, which has been America’s key ally in Iraq. So far, the senior Shiite clergy in Najaf have tacitly supported the US-led occupation, and most of the Shiite population has followed the clergy’s lead. If the United States ever lost that support, its position in Iraq would quickly become untenable in the view of many analysts.
Read More
http://www.lebanonwire.com/0311/03110119DS.asp

Baghdad, Feb 23 2004, IRNA -- An influential Shiite Iraqi cleric, Moqtada al-Sadr, has dismissed UN backing of the US position that it would not be feasible to hold elections before the June 30 date that Washington has set for handing back power to the Iraqis. In an interview with IRNA here, the young cleric did not mince his words to say, "The United Nations has no right to interfere in the internal affairs of Iraq.
"The United Nations has connived with the occupation of Iraq," Sadr said, and proposed that two key Islamic bodies supervise the process of elections in the war-torn country.
"The issue of the elections must be under the supervision of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Arab League since these two formations are closer to Iraq than the United Nations," he said.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan vetoed any elections prior to June 30 after sending a fact-finding mission to Iraq this month to assess the possibility of holding elections.
The decision crushed Shiite hopes for elections in Iraq before the end of the occupation, in a victory for US officials who have revealed their plans to hand over sovereignty to an unelected government.
Asked to comment on the decision, al-Sadr said, "I believed from the beginning that the occupiers did not want democracy and freedom to be dominant in Iraq." The cleric, known for his trademark fiery statements, was also asked about his reaction to the UN position, in which he ruled out
resorting to any violent means. "There is no reaction for the time being, but if there is any, it will be through peaceful activities, such as demonstrations and sit-ins," he said.
Moqtada al-Sadr stressed that he opposed any violent measures since `these types of actions harm Islam and Shiism`.
The cleric denounced `bandits, saboteurs and individuals who
participate in terrorist operations in Iraq`. "Those who commit such acts are the enemies of truth -- wherever or whenever they are -- and they do not want security and stability to
be reestablished in Iraq."
http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/news/iraq/2004/02/iraq-040223-irna02.htm

March 26,2004
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- An influential Shiite cleric in Iraq called Israel's targeted killing of the spiritual leader of Hamas a "dirty crime against Islam" and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, "a miracle from God."
http://www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/meast/03/26/iraq.main/

March 29, 2004
Followers of Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr flocked to the offices of his newspaper on Sunday after US-led occupation forces shut down the daily, accusing it of inciting "violence".
They were responding to a call for an open-ended sit-in outside al-Hawza al-Natiqa buildings on al-Hurriyah square in southern Baghdad to protest against the action on the daily.
"No to occupation," shouted the crowd, as dozens of unarmed al-Sadr supporters, wearing black and deployed to maintain security, watched a group burn a US flag.
http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/AA233B3B-AA8A-466C-A31B-4D6DE7E62DB6.htm

April 2nd 2004
KUFA, Iraq (AP)--A radical Shiite Muslim cleric has expressed solidarity with the militant Palestinian group Hamas and said that he should be considered the group's "striking arm" in Iraq.
"I have said and I repeat my expression of solidarity, which Hassan Nasrallah called for, to stand with Hamas," Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr said Friday in a reference to the leader of the militant Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah.
Last month, Nasrallah announced that his party would close ranks with Hamas.
"Let (Hamas) consider me their striking arm in Iraq because the fate of Iraq and Palestine is the same," al-Sadr said during a Friday prayer sermon in Kufa, his home base south of Baghdad. He didn't elaborate on what he meant by the phrase.
The announcement followed Israel's assassination of Hamas' spiritual leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin last month.
"We promise the Palestinians and all the oppressed that we will fight and defeat all the oppressors. Let everyone know that anyone who attacks one of our symbols, like Sheik Ahmed Yassin, can attack followers of the Shiite belief," al-Sadr said.
Al-Sadr, who lives in the southern city of Najaf, has been an outspoken critic of the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq, but hasn't called for attacking the occupying forces.
Last month, the U.S.-led coalition shutdown a newspaper considered to be his mouthpiece, saying it was inciting violence against coalition troops.
At least 20,000 al-Sadr supporters held Friday prayers in front of the coalition's headquarters in Baghdad to protest the closure of the newspaper.
http://framehosting.dowjonesnews.com/sample/samplestory.asp?StoryID=2004040214170018&Take=1

April 2nd 2004
A Shia militia group loyal to radical cleric Muqtada Sadr has wiped out a village in central Iraq which refused to adhere to its puritanical creed, killing some inhabitants and forcing the rest to flee.
Hundreds of militiamen from the Mahdi's Army group besieged the town of Kawlia, 10km south of the city of Diwaniya, with mortars and smashed walls with sledgehammers three weeks ago, reducing to rubble the entire village famed for its dancers and prostitutes since the 1920s.
...
The town's destruction has raised fears that the militia, which operates under the command of Mr Sadr, and is active in Baghdad and eight southern provinces, is not just operating above the law, but defining it. Mr Shubari says his Diwaniya office operates its own Sharia (Islamic law) courts, and uses its Sharia police to apply Islamic punishments.
Militiamen say their Diwaniya brigade alone has between 800 and 1,000 men under arms. Diwaniya residents speak of a reign of terror, and say masked militiamen with Kalashnikovs are staging processions.
Hamid Alwan's back is still black with the marks of 80 lashes struck by a cleric for smelling of gin.
Mr Shubari confirmed that his office was punishing people who drank alcohol with 80 lashes.
The Spanish-led multinational force, assigned to provide security in the area, says it has made one raid on the Sharia court, after receiving orders from its military command, but is reluctant to intervene. "The problem is not the Mahdi's Army, the problem is the terrorists. It's the terrorists who make dangers for the coalition," says Major Carlos Herradon.
A local police chief says the Army is "a good force", whose Sharia courts are supreme. Journalists in the city have also been advised to respect "the sensitivity" of the news, and refrain from reporting.
In recent weeks, coalition officials say they have demolished Mr Sadr's Sharia court run from a basement in the nearby holy city of Najaf, and padlocked the main offices of Mr Sadr's newspaper in Baghdad. The occupation authorities have also reissued orders to disband the Mahdi's Army and other militias.
But analysts fear the measures will serve to provoke Shia grassroots activists into open confrontation with the occupation authorities that the coalition has so far managed to avoid. "We prefer to die rather than see the Mahdi's Army dissolved," says Mr Shubari. "Either martyrdom or victory, there is no other way." Ahead of a large Shia procession next week, black flags are draped from many Shia shrines in southern Iraq instructing followers to face the sword rather than surrender to an Islamic state.
http://news.ft.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=FT.com/StoryFT/FullStory&c=StoryFT&cid=1079420126275

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by repost
Saturday Apr 3rd, 2004 5:12 PM
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Letter from Baghdad
Borzou Daragahi, August 27, 2003
...
There are even radical reformist clerics who oppose Islamic traditions and argue for a strict separation of mosque and state.
Muqtada al-Sadr is definitely not one of them.
During that speech in Kufa, he said a lot of angry things against the American occupation. He vowed to create his own army, naming it after the Imam Mahdi, the 9th century Shiite saint who disappeared from the Earth and whose return will herald a new age.
Read More
http://www.guerrillanews.com/media/doc2767.html
by ME Intelligence (repost)
Saturday Apr 3rd, 2004 5:14 PM
The Sadrist Movement


In an incendiary speech before thousands of Shiite Muslim worshipers in Kufa on July 18, a zealous young cleric condemned the 25-member Governing Council appointed by the United States to run Iraq as made up of "nonbelievers," declared that he was forming a religious army, and called for a "general mobilization to fight the American and British occupiers."[1] Although Muqtada al-Sadr, the son of a revered ayatollah killed by Saddam Hussein's regime in 1999, was careful to specify that his army would use "peaceful means" to achieve this objective and explicitly condemned attacks on coalition soldiers, his strident opposition to the presence of American troops on Iraqi soil has begun to generate concern in Washington.

Until recently, US officials in Iraq had largely ignored Sadr, regarded by the Shiite clerical establishment as a young firebrand with modest religious credentials who is capitalizing on the reputation of his late father. Not wanting to increase the allure of the young cleric (he claims to be 30-years old, but is widely believed to be in his early to mid-twenties), coalition forces allowed him to operate freely and impose Islamic law (sharia) in the Shiite suburbs of Baghdad, but excluded his followers from the Governing Council of Iraq. In recent weeks, however, it has become increasingly clear that the Sadrists (Sadriyuun in Arabic), as the followers of Muqtada al-Sadr have become known, are not fading away. Their integration of Iraqi tribalism with Shiite puritanism has yielded a potent social and cultural force that could create headaches for the United States.

The 2nd Martyr

Muqtada's father, Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr (b. 1943), was a close relative of the legendary Islamic scholar Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr,[2] though his contributions in the field of Shiite jurisprudence were more modest. In 1960 he joined the editorial staff of the journal Al-Awa and by the end of the decade had written two books, entitled Al-Islam wal-Mithaq al-Alimiyah lil-Huquq al-Insan (Islam and the International Covenant on Human Rights) and Ma Wara al-Fiqh (What is behind Jurisprudence).

Unlike his cousin, Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr did not overtly oppose the regime in the late 1970s and 1980s, despite the fact that Shiites were experiencing unprecedented levels of oppression by the ruling Baath party. Although Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr was arrested three times (and on one occasion tortured), his detractors allege that he was later co-opted by the regime, which officially recognized him as Grand Ayatollah in 1992.

The origins of the Sadrist movement lies in the formation and dynamics of a triangular relationship between the Iraqi regime, the urbanized Shiite tribes and the missionary activism of Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr. Alarmed by the Shiite uprising that erupted in the aftermath of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, the Iraqi regime began a process of co-opting and privileging Shiite tribes - a significant ideological retreat for the ruling Baath party, which had spent the previous two decades curtailing their influence.

Historically, relations between Shiite tribes and the Shiite clerical establishment in Iraq have been acrimonious. Narrow tribal loyalties conflicted with universalistic Shiite religious precepts, while many tribal customs (such as the al-wasliyah tradition that facilitates the exchange of women) are anathema to Islamic law. By promoting tribal identities, the regime hoped to offset radical Shiite challenges.

It is partly for this reason that the government sponsored Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr. In his controversial book Fiqh al-Asha'ir (Tribal Jurisprudence), Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr had sought to reconcile tribal customs with Sharia and conferred upon tribal leaders the right to administer religious law. Hoping to counterbalance the influence of radical religious leaders, the regime allowed Sadr to appoint prayer leaders in hundreds of towns and cities in Iraq.

Sadr's influence was greatest in the Shiite suburb east of Baghdad formerly known as Saddam City, but unofficially known by its original name, Madinat al-Thawra (City of the Revolution). While Madinat al-Thawra was originally built in the 1960s for the purpose of absorbing mostly-Shiite immigrants from the south of the country and promoting their assimilation, the 20 square km district's self-enclosed economy and its psychological, cultural and geographic separation from the rest of Baghdad had the effect of reinforcing the tribal identities of its inhabitants, who numbered over 2 million by the 1990s.

Through a process of tribal mergers and the distribution of patronage, the Baathist regime turned the urbanized tribes into real centers of power, albeit beholden to the regime. At the same time, however, Sadr gained a mass following and became a focal point for opposition to the regime. Beginning with a 1997 fatwa mandating the holding of Friday prayers in Madinat al-Thawra, Sadr began to assert his independence from the government. He effectively became a marked man when he publicly demanded that the Iraqi regime release 106 Islamic scholars jailed since the March 1991 uprising in southern Iraq. In February 1999, Sadr and two of his sons were killed by Saddam's loyalists in Najaf. After his father's death, Muqtada al-Sadr went into hiding, accompanied by some of the more fanatical adherents of his father's creed.

The Sadrist movement grew from the fertile soil of Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr's martyrdom and retained his unique amalgamation of tribalism and puritanism. While the Sadrists go to great lengths in linking the two martyrdoms of Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr (who was killed by the regime in 1980) and Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, the movements they inspired differ sharply in ideology, organizational structure, and support bases.[3] The Sadrists aspire to purge the Najaf seminary and the wider Iraqi Shiite clerical establishment of Iranian and other external (notably Lebanese) influences. Their ideology envisages the creation of an Iraqi theocracy that respects scholastic diversity, tolerates tribal norms and - most importantly - is completely independent of the Iranian clergy. This sets them apart from the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and some in al-Daawa, who have identified the creation of an Iranian-style theocracy in Iraq as their ultimate ideological objective.

The Sadrists after Saddam

Upon the collapse of the Iraqi regime, the Sadrists quickly asserted control over Madinat al-Thawra, which they renamed Madinat al-Sadr (Sadr City), and mounted an impressive campaign to repair power installations and restore basic services and security to the population. The Sadrists control a network of mosques and Husseiniyats (Shiite mourning and religious training centers), operate courts in the enclave, and police its streets.

Although Muqtada al-Sadr has repeatedly called for US troops to leave, he has condemned attacks on coalition forces as "sabotage operations against Iraq and its people carried out by supporters of the former regime."[4] He knows full well that his undisputed grip on Sadr City depends on American forbearance and he has no intention at present to provoke the United States. The Sadrists have imposed strict Islamic practices in areas they control, under the direction of firebrand cleric Muhammad al-Fartousi, who preaches at the Hikmat mosque in Sadr City. According to reliable sources, the Sadrists have vandalized, and even firebombed, cinemas, liquor shops, and video stores in areas under their control. Adnan al-Shamhani, the official spokesman for the Sadrists, claims that such acts "did not take place at the instructions of our office, but were carried out by zealous young people spontaneously."[5] Recently, the Sadrists appear to have relaxed restriction, apparently so as to avoid antagonizing the Americans. "We had some imams saying women will be beaten in the streets if some of their hair is showing and liquor stores burned down," al-Fartousi told the Associated Press. "This is not what we are about. A gentle advice to such women or a tap on the shoulder should suffice."[6]

The Sadrists' support base is primarily confined to Sadr City, though the tribal ties of many of its residents have allowed the movement to gain influence in some southern towns, such as al-Amarah. The Sadrists' chief weakness is their isolation from the seminaries, where Muqtada al-Sadr (who often speaks in colloquial Arabic, rather than the classical Arabic typically used by clerics) is viewed with palpable disdain. They have little presence in Karbala, whose scholastic community is largely of Iranian origin. What meager influence they had in Najaf was undermined by the murder in April of Majid al-Khoei and the siege on Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani's estate - both of which were attributed to Sadrist sympathizers.

In an attempt to compensate for his lack of support in the traditional seminaries of Najaf and Karbala, Muqtada al-Sadr has established the Hawzah al-Natiqah. This nascent hawzah (seminary) is largely staffed by loyalists of the slain Sadiq al-Sadr. The Natiqah promotes emulation of the late Sadr - a highly controversial stance in Shiite jurisprudence, where a great marja'a ceases to be a source of emulation upon his death.

Although Muqtada al-Sadr is accepted by most in the movement as its symbolic leader, it is not entirely clear who makes important decisions. Attempts to remedy this defect have hitherto proved either ineffective or divisive. A case in point was the attempt to organize the movement by Sheikh Mohammad al-Yaqubi, who was a close companion of the late Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr. As a result of this endeavor Yaqubi became embroiled in a dispute with Muqtada al-Sadr, subsequently split from the movement and established the Hizb al-Fadila al-Islamiyah (Islamic Virtue Party).

One of the reasons the United States has shown little interest in dealing with the Sadrists is that the movement's amorphous structure makes it difficult to co-opt as a whole into the post-Baathist political order. However, its organizational deficiency also makes it easier for the US and its Iraqi allies to fragment the Sadrist camp by exploiting tribal rivalries and competing ambitions within it. Muqtada al-Sadr's announcement about the establishment of the Jaish al-Mahdi (Army of the Mahdi) is unlikely to amount to much due to American disapproval of private armies and the Sadrists' own lack of experience in these endeavors.

The Sadrists' chief strength is the legacy of Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr's martyrdom - this is what enables Muqtada al-Sadr to draw tens of thousands of people into the streets at a moment's notice. When Sadr mistook a recent military deployment near his house for American preparations to arrest him, he even managed to mobilize 10,000 demonstrators in Najaf (many, if not most, of whom traveled from Sadr City to put on the show of strength).

However, while Muqtada al-Sadr is undoubtedly charismatic, the inexperienced leader has needlessly antagonized other Shiite groups in his speeches, particularly SCIRI. In early May, he was quoted as saying that SCIRI head Ayatollah Mohammed Sayed al-Hakim "betrayed the people of Basra and the south when he urged them to fight [in the 1991 intifada against Saddam], and didn't come in to help them, causing the intifada to fail."[7]

The Sadrists have recently sought to mend relations with Iran. Pictures of the late Ayatollah Khomeini have been allowed to proliferate in Sadr City and pro-Iranian figures in the movement have been given positions of authority.[8] Muqtada al-Sadr visited Iran to attend events commemorating the fourteenth anniversary of Ayatollah Khomeini's death on June 4 and spent a week meeting with top Iranian officials, including Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the head of the judiciary, Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi He was also reported to have met secretly with Qasim Suleimani, the commander of the Qods Brigade (a special external department within IRGC intelligence).[9]

Conclusion
The phenemenon of the Sadrists is likely to cast a shadow over the transition period in Iraq. Even if the movement splits up and the charismatic leadership of Muqtada al-Sadr is either restrained or brought to a sudden halt, the tribal puritanism that is the legacy of his murdered father is likely to remain a significant force in Iraqi politics. Given these realities the optimum strategy for the U.S. and Iraqi planners is to address the problems associated with the country's tribal heritage and its manipulation by both the state and the seminaries.

http://www.meib.org/articles/0307_iraqd.htm
by Alj
Saturday Apr 3rd, 2004 5:20 PM
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Shiite men parade in Sadr City, a northern Baghdad, Iraq, neighborhood, Saturday April 3 2004. Thousands took part in a parade of the Al-Mehdi army, a shiite group founded by Muktada Al-Sadr. (AP Photo/Samir Mizban)
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/040403/481/bag10704031228
---
Thousands of supporters of Iraq's Shia cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, marched through the streets of Baghdad on Saturday, in a show of strength punctuated by anti-occupation rhetoric.

Members of al-Sadr's militia, known as the Mahdi army, paraded through Sadr city, his power base in the northeast of the Iraqi capital.

Some of them wore black masks, and many carried banners and pictures of the cleric and of his father who was assassinated in 1999. An American and an Israeli flag were set on fire.

"This parade of the Mahdi army was ordered by his eminency the general commander of the army, Sayid Muqtada al-Sadr," said Sadiq al-Hashimi, a cleric who was leading a group of marchers.

"We are here to show the world our might, this army can be a striking force at any moment, it's a time bomb that will go off at a time and place it chooses."

Al-Sadr has often spoken out against the US occupation and against the Iraqi Governing Council which Washington hand-picked.

He has wide influence, especially among poor urban Shia in and around Baghdad, and formed his "Jaysh al-Mahdi" militia last year.

Newspaper shut down

The US-led occupation authorities in Iraq closed down a newspaper acting as his mouthpiece last Sunday, accusing al-Hawza of inciting violence. His supporters have mounted several major protests since.

Saturday's marchers also complained about the arrest of a senior al-Sadr aide who they said had been detained by US forces.

"This is a message to the council of oppression and the US who tried to tell the people we have no influence," Said Murtada Kinani, a construction worker who joined the parade, said.

"Saddam could not stop us, do they think they can stop us?"

http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/AE9B59FF-A942-437E-ABC4-662D1B09F167.htm
by mc
Saturday Apr 3rd, 2004 5:25 PM
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Iraqi Shiite men march through the CPA, Coalition Provisional Authority, headquarters to gather for Friday prayers in Baghdad, Iraq, Friday April 2, 2004. Thousands of followers of radical Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr gathered outside of the CPA Coalition Provisional Authority, headquarters for Friday prayers instead of mosques to protest the closure of weekly Al-Hawza newspaper. The U.S.-led coalition on Sunday shut down the newspaper, run by followers of Muqtada al-Sadr, saying its articles were increasing the threat of violence against the coalition. (AP Photo/Murad Sezer)
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/040402/481/bag10304021340

US tanks have deployed in the Iraqi capital to stop hundreds of angry protestors marching on the coalition's city centre headquarters after Shiite Muslim radicals took to the streets across central and southern Iraq.

The protest in the capital turned violent as some supporters of radical leader Moqtada Sadr threw themselves at the US tanks and a police officer said at least two of the demonstrators had been crushed.

There was no immediate confirmation of the deaths from police headquarters or the US military.

Huge protests were also held in the central pilgrimage city of Najaf and as far south as Amara.

Unarmed militiamen from Sadr's Mehdi Army paraded in Sadr City, a sprawling mainly Shiite neighbourhood of the capital regarded as a radical stronghold.

Sadr's followers have held almost daily demonstrations to protest the decision by the coalition last Sunday to close his weekly newspaper for 60 days on charges of inciting violence.

In Najaf, Sadr supporters took to the streets reacting to rumours that Spanish coalition soldiers had detained Mustafa Yaacubi, the head of his office in the city.

Spanish commanders "categorically" denied the claim in a statement distributed to the crowd that formed outside the headquarters of the Spanish-led Plus Ultra Brigade.

However, the protestors dismissed the denial, demanding the release of Yaacubi.

Rumours of Yaacubi's arrest also spread to the southern city of Amara where thousands of protestors took to the streets to vent their anger, an AFP corrspondent said.

Sheikh Qais al-Khazaali, the head of Sadr's office in Baghdad, warned that his movement would react if Yaacubi was not quickly released.

"This is a new provocation by the coalition forces," he said. "If he is not quickly released, our movement, our leadership and our supporters will react with the means at our disposal."

Another rumour that coalition forces were surrounding Sadr's office in Najaf spread later, prompting hundreds of his followers to head to the coalition's Baghdad headquarters in buses and cars, correspondents said.

Their advance was stopped by police units and at least half a dozen US tanks which cordoned off streets leading to the heavily fortified administrative compound.

An AFP correspondent saw one young man lunging at a tank which stopped abruptly without harming him. The crowd cheered the young man and then protestors upturned carts to block the road.

"There were two or three dead among the protestors who threw themselves under American tanks which could not avoid them," said Sergeant Abbas Mohamad.

Earlier, three Salvadoran soldiers were shot and wounded as they tried to disarm what the San Salvador press described as pro-Sadr militiamen in Kufa, just outside Najaf.

Major Carlos Herradon, a spokesman for the Plus Ultra Brigade, said the shooting erupted when the troops tried to disarm the men in the shrine city, a Sadr stronghold, and a group of them opened fire.

He added that one of the soldiers remained in hospital.

Unlike the mainstream Shiite religious parties - the Dawa and the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq - Sadr has refused to take part in coalition-installed interim bodies and has had often troubled relations with coalition troops.

But this weekend's demonstrations mark a sharp escalation of the radical leader's campaign of opposition to the US-led occupation.

http://www.themercury.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5936,9186497%255E401,00.html
by latest news
Sunday Apr 4th, 2004 11:31 AM
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sadr_supporter.jpgqint6b....

KUFA, Iraq (Reuters) - Spanish-led troops and Iraqi police fought a three-hour gun battle with Shi'ite militiamen near Najaf that left 20 Iraqis and four Salvadoran soldiers dead on Sunday, witnesses and medical officials said.

In Baghdad, clashes between U.S. soldiers and Shi'ites killed at least one Iraqi and wounded many. As night fell, fighting continued in the poor Sadr City district as locals set two Humvees ablaze and hid behind walls waiting to fire rockets.

The shooting in Kufa, near Najaf, began after protesting militiamen marched on a Spanish-run military base to denounce the arrest of an aide to a radical Shi'ite cleric and the closure by U.S. officials of a militant Baghdad newspaper.

In a statement from Madrid, Spain's Defence Ministry said four soldiers from El Salvador, fighting alongside the Spanish, had been killed and nine wounded.

Dr Falah al-Numhna, Najaf's director general for health, said 20 Iraqis were killed and at least 200 wounded in the battle. He said at least two Iraqi police were among the dead.

The violence was likely to heighten a charged mood in Spain, where 191 people were killed last month by bombs blamed on Islamists. The newly-elected Socialists have vowed to withdraw the 1,300 Spanish troops from Iraq unless the U.N. takes charge.

A spokesman for the Spanish military in Iraq told Spanish radio the militiamen had opened fire first, attacking the base with gunfire from at least three positions. Coalition troops then returned fire, he said.

Witnesses said the demonstrators, many of them armed, had thrown stones at a military vehicle arriving at the base and shortly afterwards Spanish-led troops and Iraqi police at the base had opened fire on the crowd from several directions.

Black-clad members of the Mehdi Army, a banned militia loyal to radical anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, returned fire at the heavily-defended garrison. Fighting continued for around three hours. A Reuters correspondent said most of the dead he saw were wearing the uniforms of the Mehdi Army.

Sadr, 30, called on supporters to stop protests, saying they were futile. He said he would stage a sit-in in Kufa mosque and not give in until his demands were met.

"Terrorise your enemy, God will reward you well for what pleases him. It is not possible to remain silent in front of their abuse," his statement said.

VIOLENT PROTESTS

Witnesses to the fighting in Kufa said militiamen, some of them teenagers, would dart out from an area of workshops and junkyards and fire at the base before running for cover again.

"I was standing next to the tree and then I felt fire in my leg and I fell to the ground," said Hamza Mussewi, an unarmed protester who was shot in the knee.

In the northern city of Kirkuk, a suicide car bomber wounded two U.S. soldiers and five Iraqis at another pro-Sadr protest. There were also protests in the southern cities of Basra and Nassiriya.

Sadr's supporters have marched in the past week against the closure of al-Hawza newspaper, a mouthpiece for Sadr that U.S.-led authorities accused of inciting anti-American violence.

They have also protested against the arrest of Sadr's aide Mustapha Yacoubi, who they say was seized in Najaf on Friday by occupying troops. Spanish troops deny detaining Yacoubi, but said other coalition members might have arrested him.

"Sheikh Moqtada Sadr is our leader. He's going to lead Iraq. Today we fought the occupation troops and we will keep fighting them until we take over," said 23-year-old Mohammad Hanoun, a protester wielding a chain in Baghdad.

SHI'ITES INVIGORATED

Oppressed under former president Saddam Hussein, Iraq's Shi'ites have grown increasingly vocal in the year since U.S.-led forces ousted Saddam and want their clear majority of the population to be reflected in a future Iraqi government.

"We don't have any option now but to liberate our country via armed struggle," said Arkan Hatab, a Sadr follower.

http://www.reuters.com/locales/newsArticle.jsp;:40702b5e:bc4d99e61a7eba6a?type=worldNews&locale=en_IN&storyID=4744073
by nytimes
Sunday Apr 4th, 2004 1:39 PM
A coordinated Shiite uprising was spreading across the country, with men loyal to a radical cleric seizing Kufa, protesting in Najaf and battling U.S. forces in Baghdad.
http://nytimes.com/2004/04/04/international/middleeast/04CND-IRAQ.html?hp
by update
Sunday Apr 4th, 2004 2:15 PM
FOUR people were killed and eight others wounded in clashes between British forces and militiamen of radical Shiite leader Moqtada Sadr in the southeastern Iraqi city of Amara, hospital sources said today.
http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,9192793%255E1702,00.html
by Things Will Explode
Monday Apr 5th, 2004 10:10 AM
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The U.S.-led coalition plans to execute a months-old arrest warrant for Moqtada al-Sadr, an influential Shiite cleric who in recent weeks has incited violence against the United States and called the September 11, 2001, attacks a gift from God, coalition spokesman Dan Senor said Monday.
http://www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/meast/04/05/iraq.main/index.html
by basra update
Monday Apr 5th, 2004 10:22 AM
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Radical Shiite militiamen shout from the top of the governor's house they occupied in the southern city of Basra, Iraq , Monday April 5, 2004. About 150 men occupied the building in a dawn invasion, in protest over coalition actions against radical Shia Muslim cleric Moqtada Sadr, seen in poster. (AP Photo/Nabil al-Jurani)
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/040405/481/bag11704051423

April 5 (Bloomberg) -- Iraqis loyal to Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr today occupied the governor's office in the U.K.- controlled southern city of Basra, a U.K. military spokesman said, after rioting Sunday in Baghdad and Najaf left at least 40 Iraqis and eight U.S. soldiers dead.
...
The taking of the Basra governor's office was peaceful and British officials are in talks with the occupants, a military spokesman, who asked not to be identified, said by telephone from Basra. There were no reports of any casualties, nor of the number of people inside the building, he said.
http://quote.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=10000103&sid=avddA80CpUHk&refer=us
by ALJ
Sunday Aug 15th, 2004 12:16 AM
In an exclusive interview with Aljazeera, Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr said the Iraqi people want the interim Iraqi government to resign, saying its policies are worse than those of Saddam Hussein.

Speaking from an undisclosed location in Najaf before the announcement that talks with the interim government had failed, al-Sadr questioned the legitimacy of the Iyad Allawi government and claimed that he, and the Mahdi Army, were fighting for the rights of all Iraqis.

"This is the desire of the Iraqi people and I am here fighting for them," he said, referring to his demands on Friday that the interim Iraqi government resign.

"I am a part of the people and I am a brother to them in this world and the next".

"This is a government propped up by the Americans," he said.

When asked if he was seeking any political office in any future reconciliation government, al-Sadr said he would not seek any official post, "not now, and until I die".

"I refused to participate in their so-called national meeting which is why I...we are targeted. I will not participate in any political discourse as long as there is an occupation," he added.

Not Shia, not Muslims

Al-Sadr told Aljazeera that this was not the first time he faced such difficult circumstances having fought against government troops during the Shia uprising of March 1991 which was quickly suppressed by Saddam Hussein's forces.

He also went on to describe those Shia who reportedly demanded he withdraw from Najaf as non-Muslim.

"These people are not Shia, they are outside the teachings of Islam," he said.

"No one in his right mind could call Saddam a Muslim, but what these people are doing is far worse than what Saddam did to Iraq".

"It is not just the figure of Saddam; every Saddam, every government which aggresses against the Iraqi people in this despicable manner by cooperating with the occupation must be removed," he added.

Colonialist, imperialist

In an earlier speech made to his supporters, al-Sadr claimed the interim government was "a colonialist, imperialist extension of the US occupation of our lands".

"Najaf is witnessing victories against the forces of darkness, against the imperial colonists, by the grace of God."

"Despite all of this, we ask for peace, we ask for the right to live in liberty and justice…this is the will of the Iraqi people," he told Aljazeera.

Aljazeera
http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/6051C98D-2CE1-4DFF-A7B5-051065602EBD.htm
by more
Sunday Aug 15th, 2004 12:17 AM
BAGHDAD, Aug. 14 (Xinhuanet) -- The holy city of Najaf looks calm Saturday though it is filled with anxiety. Iraq's interim government said it will resume military operations after peace talks with radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr came to a deadlock.

Nine days after fierce fighting erupted between Sadr's Mehdi Army on one side and the American and Iraqi forces on the other side, the latter could not enter into the Shrine of Imam Ali, where the followers of Sadr fortified, because of the deadly resistance in spite of the simple weapons they have.

Political media said the breaking into Najaf by the American forces to destroy Sadr and his followers would only agitate the situation due to the religious value of the shrine and any harm to it would only result in more anger and the desire to revenge.

After truce talks aimed at ending the clashes broke down on Saturday, Iraqi government vowed to resume military operations in the city 160 km south of Baghdad.

"The interim government is resuming military operations to maintain law and order in the holy city," Iraq's National Security Adviser Muwafaq al-Rubaie told a news conference.

Meanwhile, he expressed his deep sorry that the efforts being exerted to reach a peaceful solution to the crisis in Najaf had broken down.

As the son of the late Shiite leader Mohamed Sadiq al-Sadr, who was assassinated by the former regime of Saddam Hussein in 1999, Sadr appeared on the Iraqi arena after the collapse of the former regime in April 2003 and his influence has rapidly increased since then.

The young cleric inherited a wide net of offices and religious schools and was soon surrounded by a group of young men belonging to "the Speaking Hawza" founded by his father.

In June 2003, Al Sadr declared the formation of the Mehdi Army, which paraded in several Iraqi cities, and gradually drew the attention of the Americans.

What increased the sensitivity towards Sadr and his supporters were their political speeches which stood against the political steps of the US administration in Iraq.

Sadr criticized the dissolved Iraqi Interim Governing Council (IGC) appointed by the United States and refused to enter into any political process under the occupation. He also refused to take part in the Iraqi national conference, from which the interim parliament will emerge.

In April, Sadr and his militants initiated a public uprise against the American forces in some of the southern Iraqi cities, which lasted for eight weeks and resulted in the death of about 500 Iraqis and the injury of 1,500 others.

The growth of the popularity of the Mehdi Army in its resistance against the occupation forces and its unification with other forces led the occupation forces to insist on eliminating Sadr by killing or arresting him.

The attempts of the occupation forces to reach Sadr and smash the Mehdi army continued. In the latest clashes, the coalition forces surrounded Najaf, battling with Sadr's supporters in the US airplanes bombed different places in Najaf and Sadr was injured in the bombing.

However, the young cleric insisted that he would not withdraw from Najaf and would fight to the end. He even attacked Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and demanded his resign.

On Saturday, thousands of Sadr's followers flocked to Najaf. They were led by Sheikh Hazem al-Araji, a senior Sadr aide in Baghdad, who had urged people during Friday's weekly prayers to march to Najaf in protest against the US assault.

Observers commented that Sadr's movement has a big influence in the Iraqi arena and ignoring it will lead to more problems, so there should be a dialogue and a chance for it to take part in the Iraqi political process, for it represents a wide base of followers. Enditem

http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2004-08/15/content_1787511.htm