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Countdown For al-Sadr

Perhaps the countdown has finally begun in earnest for the end of Muqtada al-Sadr's days. The latest sign that the Iraqi government may be preparing in earnest to bring that about is the news that Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki met with the key Shi'a religious figure in Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf.

See: ABC News: Iraqi PM Meets With Influential Cleric

Kirk will be bringing more context with his continuing coverage of events. But this meeting today is quite noteworthy.

"If the government does not do its duty in imposing security and order to the people and protecting them, it will give a chance to other powers to do this duty and this a very dangerous matter," al-Sistani's office quoted him as saying.

"Imposing security" means, among other things, silencing al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army and "those other powers" are Iraq's Sunnis. Eliminating Muqtada al-Sadr and silencing the Mahdi Army would be a serious blow not only to them, but also to their Iranian paymasters.

These words from Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani are profoundly important.


al-Sistani is readying his people for a purging that must come, and it will be bloody.

I wonder if it might not be possible the "other powers" mentioned is Iran's Shiite majority and the "imposing security" is talking about the government reining in the Sunnis, not al-Sadr and the Mahdi Army. In that scenario, Iran would protect the Shiites, Saudi Arabia or another Sunni country would protect the Sunnis, and that is a very dangerous matter.

That is possible, Capt. Thibault. But Mailki's amnesty offer is being considered seriously by some (not all by any means) Sunni insurgent groups. They are not going to lay down their arms (RPG's, Artillery shells for IED's, etc) so long as they sense an intact and agressive Mahdi Army.

I tend to believe that al-Sistani wants order and a non-theocratic government. He has been the most approachable for the US. To this end, Iran would much like to see him die of old age quite soon. They likely dare not assassinate him, or it would have already happened.

If the possiblity you wonder of has merit, Iraq is in for more trouble ahead than otherwise would have been faced.

Capt. Thibault,

I think that we can be pretty confident that Sistani was referring to the Shi'a militias, especially the Mahdi Army and the Badr Brigades. Sistani's call for an end to the militias and the concentration of military power in the hands of the national army have been very specific. Al-Hayat's report on this meeting is also specific, quoting Sistani as referring to "non-governmental powers" which might try take the place of legitimate authority. I'll write more on this soon, hopefully today actually. Thanks for the comment.