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Old 03-26-2008   #21
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Unhappy Hot yes, Unexpected not really

Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post

Seems like things are hotting up a bit.
These things have to be addressed and it's good to see the Iraqi government trying to address it themselves. We'll just have to wait and see how it ends up.
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Old 03-26-2008   #22
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That article link from the page posted earlier reads so much like an analysis of the goings-on in Muqdisho and the factions under Aideed, Ali Mahdi, and some sideline wranglings and deal-cutting from Osman Atto.

Different circumstances for sure, but the violence plays out so much the same. I don't suppose these guys will be wearing wedding dresses, kapoks, or run around with four AK-47 magazine taped together....
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Old 04-02-2008   #23
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The Jamestown Foundation's Terrorism Focus, 1 Apr 08:

What Direction for the al-Mahdi Army after the Basra Offensive?
....The problem with the Basra offensive is that it only adds complexity to the already fragmented state of Iraqi politics. First off, the military operation can intensify intra-Shiite conflicts, exacerbating the factionalism that has dominated Iraqi politics since the December 2005 elections. While the United States openly backs other Shiite militias like the Badr Corps and helps organize and arm Shiite tribal forces in the Awakening (sahwa) movement, the Sadrists will only be motivated to reinforce their military operations against perceived American threats. Since most of the Shiite militias are class-based military organizations, the SIIC-Maliki-backed military attacks on a Mahdi Army supported by the urban poor will only bolster class tensions in a country that is already fragmented by tribal divisions. The irony here is the way in which the expansion of factionalism and militia politics is occurring under the very surge strategy aimed at suppressing militia power in order to jump-start the political process, a key to achieving security in Iraq. Oddly, the renewed political process has only added to a conflict-ridden political situation that has poured fuel on the flames of militia rage in the southern regions.

Secondly, the Basra fighting may in fact enhance the military prestige of the Mahdi Army among the urban poor and certain tribal regions. As a nationalist, Moqtada can strategically use the Basra affair to bolster his leadership credentials and emerge stronger than before as an anti-occupation leader whose appeal may transcend beyond the Shiite community. But the most problematic feature of this military operation is how the recent events have in fact reduced the opportunity for the Sadrists to become a fully legitimate political movement with non-violent operational activities. The most problematic aspect of the recent fighting is the possible reversal of the five-year process that saw the gradual incorporation of Moqtada and his followers into mainstream Iraqi politics.....
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Old 08-05-2008   #24
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CSIS, 4 Aug 08: Sadr and the Mahdi Army: Evolution, Capabilities and a New Direction
....If Sadr is excluded from Iraq’s political process, feels the process is unfair, or chooses to mix politics with violence, the JAM could again become a major threat. Sadr’s future strength will also depend heavily on how well the Iraqi government build’s on the success of the Iraqi security forces to provide local security, government services, and economic opportunity – particularly for the massive number of Shi’ite young men who are unemployed or underemployed.

It is also important to note that Iraq’s current Shi’ite political parties gained power in elections with closed lists of candidates and won largely on the basis of a sectarian coalition. None have really had to campaign for office on the basis of merit or clear policies and goals. None have had to be judged on the ability of their basis to serve a given constituency, and none have had to participate in open local and provincial elections.

This makes it very difficult to judge the future balance of power between leading factions like Al-Da’wa, the SIIC, and the Sadrists if honest elections are held with open lists of candidates. It makes it equally hard to judge what will happen if elections are not held or are not felt to be fair. It is equally difficult to look beyond the prospect of local elections in 2008 and national elections in late 2009, and judge how effective Iraq’s current and future central; governments will be in serving Iraq’s Shi’ites. So far, the central government has been as ineffective in meeting Arab Shi’ite needs as those of Arab Sunnis.

The unknowns shaping the balance of power in terms of violence are matched by those shaping the balance of power in terms of religious influence, local and national politics, governance, local security and the rule of law, and economics. Intra-Shi’ite power struggles over all these issues are a certainty and will almost certainly play out over at least the need half decade. Whether this will lead to intra-Shi’ite violence, and how it will affect Iraq’s broader sectarian and ethnic tensions, is beyond any reasonable ability to predict. Only time can provide the answers.....
Complete 32-page paper at the link.
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Old 08-09-2008   #25
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Default Medhi Army moves to a Hizbollah / Moaist Model

From the BBC

Mehdi Army to give peace a chance?

Influential Iraqi cleric Moqtada Sadr is expected to use Friday prayers to tell members of his Mehdi Army militia that they should stop carrying weapons for the time being.

The BBC's Crispin Thorold in Baghdad assesses this latest move by the Shia leader.

The war is not yet over for the Mehdi Army, but the Shia militia appears to be giving peace a chance.

Moqtada Sadr's spokesman has told the BBC that until the future status of US troops in Iraq is decided, no member of the Mehdi Army may carry weapons on the streets.

Last edited by Tom Odom; 08-09-2008 at 01:45 PM. Reason: Don't post entire articles; it is called copyrights, remember?
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Old 08-09-2008   #26
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This is a demonstration not of Moqtada al Sadr's strength, but of (a) the strength of Grand Ayatollah al Sistani, and (b) the power of religion in the contemporary Middle East.

Sadr grabs the headlines, but Sistani is the true wielder of influence. Sistani was supposed to issue a fatwa (probably already has) defining the duty of Iraqis to submit to the government's authority. He is against the 'occupation' but not by military means. Sadr's tack is to employ bellicose rhetoric and limited displays of force to keep the followers of the Sadr Trend (his father's movement, Moqtada does not have any serious influence as a cleric, only as a militia leader) fired up and supportive. Sistani as one of the four Grand Ayatollas comprising the Najaf Marja (supreme theological council) is far more influential and posits true Shiaism as 'quietist' not activist - viz a viz eschewing direct political involvment in state affairs.

While Sistani is against the presence of CF on Iraqi soil, he is also against clerics running the state (as in Iran) and against the wanton spillage of Iraqi blood. Sadr's stand down of JaM probably has more to do with his aspirations to become an Ayatollah (which requires submission to the current Marja) and less with political jockeying against the CF.
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Last edited by MSG Proctor; 08-09-2008 at 02:55 PM.
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Old 08-09-2008   #27
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What is the current policy regarding how we refer to Sadr's militia in public statements? I always asserted that we should refer to it as "Sadr's militia", since referring to it as the Mahdi Army/JAM seemed to lend it undue credibility as having legitimate religious justification, rather than being a bunch of well-meaning Shia misinformed and misled by Sadr and his fellow money-hungry thugs. But then I was told to get back into my box.
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