July 2nd, 2014
08:39 AM ET

The return of Muqtada al-Sadr?

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By Global Public Square staff

It seems that everyone – President Obama, John Kerry, NATO, Grand Ayatollah Sistani, even the Iranian government – has the same advice for the prime minister of Iraq, Nuri al-Maliki: Form a broad-based, inclusive government that reaches out to the Sunnis. That would take away some of the sense of grievance that fuels their support for radical Sunni groups like ISIS that are threatening Iraq's existence as a nation.

So why in the world is al-Maliki flatly refusing to do this?

Partly it's because he’s a hard line Shiite politician himself whose party draws its support from the Shiites, who are not particularly well disposed to the notion of being nice to the Sunnis, their former overlords.

But it's probably at least as much because al-Maliki needs to worry about radical Shiites as much as radical Sunnis. You see, he has his own Tea Party. And this one has an army of its own.

Last month, members of the group (formerly called the "Mahdi Army," now called the "Peace Brigades") paraded through the streets of Baghdad by the tens of thousands, displaying their readiness to supposedly protect holy sites and shrines. The group's name might be new, but its leader is a well-known figure in Iraq and dominated the U.S. media during the American occupation.

Remember the name Muqtada al-Sadr? He’s the radical Shiite cleric who fiercely opposed the U.S. occupation of Iraq.Back then the Mahdi Army was responsible for some of the deadliest days of the war.

Then he overplayed his hand.

The U.S. got other Shiite leaders to turn on him, issue an arrest warrant, and in 2007 he fled to Iran, where he sought exile and supposedly studied theology. But when he returned in 2011, his followers remained loyal to him, and he wields real political power in Iraq.

Al-Maliki got to keep his job as prime minister after an inconclusive election in 2010 largely because Muqtada al-Sadr helped him to build a coalition, thereby ending months of political deadlock.Since then, al-Sadr has called al-Maliki a "dictator" and – in a very surprising twist – recently added pressure on him to step down by calling for the creation of a new emergency government, right after Maliki rejected the idea.

Al-Sadr urged the Iraqi government to incorporate "moderate Sunnis, who have been marginalized" in order to quell the bloodshed.Now, al-Sadr appears to be trying to become the new power broker of Iraq, condemning ISIS and the Sunni terrorist groups, but also appealing to moderate Sunnis. Whether or not he succeeds, we are probably witnessing splits in the Shiite coalition, and that can only mean more chaos in an already chaotic situation.

A piece in Foreign Affairs points out that recent events are the re-ignition of the 2006-2007 Iraqi Civil War and that they fit a pattern. Over a third of all ethnic civil wars, the authors say, flair up again within five years. What's more, approximately one third of all power sharing arrangements born out of those conflicts also fail within that time period.  It's true of Angola, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka in history.

And, now it's true of Iraq.

Post by:
Topics: Iraq • What in the World?

soundoff (98 Responses)
  1. Dom

    ITaxed Enough Already (TEA) is about lowering the size of government and limiting the dependency of people on the government. The TEA party has some elements that are socially conservative – but the Party is primarily against the chronic overspending of our government. Money we don't even have – and that will ultimately come out of the middle class. The days of the US as a super power are numbered – and the reason is massive debt and illegal immigration (which is only increasing the size of the poor and uneducated class – which brings us all down eventually). The TEA party wants America to remain strong – and that can't continue forever on our current path. The ISIS and Mahdi Army are violent gangs with a history of terrorism. Name one terrorist act committed by the TEA Party? CNN should be ashamed to make such an offensive comparison. Pure Liberal Propaganda – thanks CNN for being a real news source…

    July 2, 2014 at 10:19 am | Reply
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

      @ Dom:
      if the TEA Party, or Taxed Enough Already, confined its interests to taxation and financial dependency on the government, the group's image would be much more positive.
      I think that alliances with extremely noninclusive groups are needed to strengthen the TEA Party sufficiently to give it any viability.
      Actually, I agree that financial dependency on the government is very destructive to our nation.
      However, I cannot summon the hatred to ally myself with the TEA Party's goals that result from alliances with bigots.
      That the negation of some USA citizens' rights is "conservative" could certainly be debated.

      July 2, 2014 at 11:10 am | Reply
      • Trevor

        Bigot: "a person who strongly and unfairly dislikes other people, ideas, etc. : a bigoted person; especially : a person who hates or refuses to accept the members of a particular group (such as a racial or religious group)"

        accept: "to give admittance or approval to "

        Unless you can say with a straight face that you don't strongly dislike other people or their ideas which leads you to "accepting" said people or ideas, then you ARE a "bigot" as well pal...

        We're ALL bigots in one way or another, you just seem to tack in on one group of people because you think you have the right to be the judge and jury on what is "fair" or "unfair"...

        July 2, 2014 at 11:21 am |
      • Christian_Grey

        Come to one of the local meetings and you will find sweet, warm, friendly people wanting to change the burden of debt in this country. Don't let people clump us in with terrorist and the such. Come see for yourself

        July 2, 2014 at 11:48 am |
      • Bill

        While the Tea Party has their share of bigots, they dont have a monopoly on them. Some of the worst bigots in the US are the street gangs who normally are not white but seem to enjoy hating whites. Every group has their fair share of haters including GLAAD as and example The so called "tolerant" people are some of the most intolerant.

        July 2, 2014 at 12:20 pm |
      • Anton

        A group cannot label itself. If they could:
        All Religions would be peaceful.
        Nazis would be family oriented patriots.
        The Tea Party wouldn't be bigoted racists.
        Its the way everybody else sees your particular political/social group that matters.

        I'd say ISIL is closer to the american Tea Party though myself, not Sadr's block. But that's splitting hairs, they're both angry, religious, bigots who have heard of compromise and science, but have never been involved with either of them.

        July 3, 2014 at 1:45 am |
    • Mark Browne

      There are nonpartisan tax reform groups that propose fiscally responsible budgeting solutions. The Tea Party seems more like a misguided hate group. If you really want to help support a group like the Concord Coalition.

      July 2, 2014 at 1:01 pm | Reply
  2. palintwit

    I can just see it now ! Nascar tracks and trailer parks being built in Iraq. Sarah Palin will be speaking at gun and knife shows. Alcoholism, bad teeth and incest will be rampant. And Chick-fil-A will open up new locations all over Baghdad !

    July 2, 2014 at 10:19 am | Reply
    • Bill

      You are a great example of what I just discussed. You are a hater. A so called tolerant person who is far from tolerant.

      July 2, 2014 at 12:22 pm | Reply
  3. palintwit

    We arrive in rusty 1964 motorhomes.
    We bring our bibles and loaded assault weapons.
    We wear ridiculous clothing and have teabags dangling from our earlobes.
    We carry misspelled racist signs as we stomp all over the White House lawn.
    We eat Chick-fil-A and wash it down with Everclear.
    We are Sarah Palin's real Americans.
    We love the baby jesus but we love to boink our cousins even more.
    We believe that the earth is only 6,000 years old and that early man walked with the dinosaurs.
    We believe that nascar is a real sport and that Dale Earnhardt was a great American athlete.
    We are the birthers. We are tea party patriots.
    We are bigots and inbreds. We are morons and we are proud.

    July 2, 2014 at 11:53 am | Reply
    • williebkind

      I do wish you were as bright as Palin but I guess misogynists would never compare themselves to women.

      July 2, 2014 at 12:21 pm | Reply
    • Tom

      Very well said!

      July 2, 2014 at 5:10 pm | Reply
  4. CW

    CNN you have become a shell of your former self. Utterly pathetic.

    July 2, 2014 at 12:36 pm | Reply
  5. Bob

    So if the Shia are the "Tea Party" then what is ISIS? The neo-Nazi Party?

    This is one of the most juvenile articles ever posted on CNN, a joke.

    July 2, 2014 at 12:49 pm | Reply
  6. toad734

    Bigots with a bunch of guns who want to run the country based on what they think their invisible sky god wants and force everyone to live as they live...Yep, sounds familiar.

    July 2, 2014 at 1:08 pm | Reply
    • palintwit

      Surely you are refering to Republicans and Teabillies.

      July 2, 2014 at 1:21 pm | Reply
  7. John in Denver

    I only hope the Kurds somehow come out of this nightmare with a homeland of their own. They deserve it. Irregardless of religious differences, they remain nationalistic–Kurds, first and foremost. The nut job Caliphate fanatics and various other Islamic tea-billy-like crazies are polarizing opposites to the stalwart Kurds.

    July 2, 2014 at 1:52 pm | Reply
  8. J.

    There is nothing wrong with TEA party principle of limited government and fiscal responsibility. It is their methods of no compromise, no action, my way or the highway, destroy it to save it that has me scared and it is reckless. The message is being lost by the messengers. Then again this President does a lot of that too...his delivery is just better.

    July 2, 2014 at 1:54 pm | Reply
  9. Tom

    Tea party has split this country!

    July 2, 2014 at 5:07 pm | Reply
  10. FDR

    More like they are facing their own socialist (Democratic) party; a party whose goal is the eventual destruction of the government in order to form a more perfect tyranny.

    July 2, 2014 at 5:22 pm | Reply
  11. brian

    If Al-Sadr (elected president of IRAQ) is like the "leader of the tea party", I guess that would make
    Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (the leader of ISIS) like BARRACK HUSSEIN OBAMA (elected president of USA).
    Sorry, but I am confused?

    July 2, 2014 at 5:57 pm | Reply
  12. barb'sbarb

    When extremists make inroads, the roads lead to destruction.....

    July 2, 2014 at 6:59 pm | Reply
  13. tsana

    Cheap shot comparing the Mahdi Army to the Tea Party. I am amazed this one got past Farid. Please don't let GPS good reputation get tarred by this sort of comment.

    July 2, 2014 at 7:20 pm | Reply
  14. Chuck

    Hey Zach you diaper headed nincompoop, Calling an Iraqi group a Tea Party

    you like names, how about Towelhead? or Terrorist sympathizer?

    July 3, 2014 at 1:57 am | Reply
  15. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

    I said what I had to say, and others said what they thought.
    So far, nothing has been said to convince me that bigotry is rendered good by its being very common.

    July 3, 2014 at 8:23 am | Reply
  16. j. von hettlingen

    Moqtada Al Sadr has called for al-Maliki to step down and reached out to the moderate Sunnis. Yet he has assembled his disbanded militia again. The Sunnis outside Iraq see him as the one, who sows discord in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Bahrain, while propping up Assad's regime.

    July 3, 2014 at 10:13 am | Reply
  17. Retired Military

    1. Should have implemented Marshall-like plan.
    2. As a result, Sunnis would not have been forced out of military and government in Iraq.
    3. Sunnis would not have left the battlefield in Sunni held territory in Iraq (North and western Iraq). Shia led military just walked away.
    4. ISIS would have been contained by the Iraqi and Syrian militaries and rebels in Syria – containment.
    5. ISIS wouldn't have been able to take Iraqi land, weaponry, money, gold and oil. They have enriched themselves as there was no opposition, only opportunity.
    6. Bush administration made correct decision to support an elected government of Sunnis and Shiites. Once we abandoned the difficult work done in blood and treasure the Sunnis were ejected. Not staying engaged was the foundational act of destabilizing Iraq and now the region. Discussion about the merits of whether we should have gone into Iraq isn't the issue.
    7. The decision to leave Iraq was a near term, political one seen as a necessity in the year of a Presidential election.
    8. I concur with your comments on the future Iraq being divided up. It is inevitable.

    July 3, 2014 at 10:41 am | Reply
    • Retired Military

      Disregard...wrong posting...

      July 3, 2014 at 10:45 am | Reply
    • cocoasurfer

      MQ9 Reaper Drones

      August 29, 2014 at 3:19 am | Reply
  18. Retired Military

    This is a disservice to journalism. What could have been a somewhat informative post on the complexity of governance in a fractured Iraq was tarnished by outright partisan political politics – comparing the Tea Party to a terrorist thug and his murderous henchman. There is no credibility in such obtuse subjectivity. The foundations of journalism are objectivity and integrity. GPS and it's Host continue to breach these foundational tenents. That should bring pause to any and all who legitimately want to know the truth. GPS should apologize to its followers for such unprofessionalism. They clearly know better.

    July 3, 2014 at 3:21 pm | Reply
    • Karen

      Very well said. This is propaganda by some party or forces in America who do not want to take reponsibility for fomenting the Arab Spring which led to all this ISIS chaos. They do not want to admit that they knew nothing and could not care less, and condemned a good man and good leader. Until they do that and openly and publicly giving their backing to President Bashar Al-Assad in Syria, there will be no hope in fighting ISIS. (Saddam was a different kettle of fish, he deserved to be removed, WE should not have backed Al-Qaeda insurgents in the aftermath of that).

      July 3, 2014 at 10:21 pm | Reply
      • cocoasurfer

        I'm trying to set the aim. The U.S is getting all the heat but catch your breath a minute.read the speech IEA gave to Norway on 8/25/2014. All the religious smoke and mirrors are blinding the real purpose of stabilizing IRAQ. Maliki just didn't support the Sunni so now its a little crazy. BP, Exxon Mobile, and Dutch Shell are already under contract to produce the last of the big sweet oil deposits in IRAQ. The Kurd are also helping out because the fields are not in the south like most of the oil. It's north. The U.S is also supported by China because they also have the largest consumption of oil and have their own big boy going in to contract for their share. Its a five year plan to make IRAQ the second largest producer in the world. By 2035 China will al but 17% dependent on foreign oil. Iraq will be on line to produce over 200,000,00 BpD. I know a religious war is a little more interesting but so is The game of Thrones. you can almost lay the maps over each other Conflict and future oil production. America is already shipping oil to china due to low consumption here. Production is high, the highest in the world right now we're No.1 in production. We have to keep the barrel over a dollar to gain. Low consumption= low cost. Smart people know that Nations are joining together to form a new World order. It is actually a good thing because it will also regulate pollution from oil production. the trenches of war are no different than When Rome took land or When rebel Europeans took the Americas. People died. The difference now is the major players are starting to understand the brutal results of industry on the Earth. Its a cold reality but undeveloped nations will fall by the masses before 2050. Look at the list of countries on the board of the IEA. you will see. Peace a modernization to all the world. sell your camels. There no room for this brutal existence anymore. Be thankful your on the right soil my brothers and sisters. PEACE.

        August 29, 2014 at 12:22 am |
      • cocoasurfer

        The intellectual thinking of people in general is the real issue. With mutual agreement being the element of focus. We have men in space and a forward proactive approach to war. for example the 174th Fighter Wing began the transition from F-16 piloted fighters to MQ-9 Reapers, becoming the first fighter squadron conversion to an all–unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) attack squadron.[8][9][10] In March 2011, the U.S. Air Force was training more pilots for advanced unmanned aerial vehicles than for any other single weapons system.[11] The Reaper is also used by the United States Navy, the CIA, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, NASA, and others like the Italians.Then you have this middle east region who is sitting on the largest supplies of oil in the world. Problem is the undeveloped countries can't advance because of backwards religious beliefs.. REALLY? Which is why we have Politicians to begin with. The truth is we could just go take the damn land and put a Flag up but we have to have a reason to do this. Point in case Saddam Hussein. OH know big surprise no WMD's. Maybe it's just me but I believe another American was killed today in Syria, "fighting for ISIL" Now Muqtada al Sadr is back? That works for now. It's good to be a part of the modern world. It would be great if everyone could see the big picture but they would rather ride camels and fight to keep the old religions alive. So without going in and killing everyone we just try to do the humanitarian thing and save the ones that understand a peaceful resolve and do what we can to regain control of the effort to bring democracy or order the the place so the IEA can produce the oil. I for one am very proud of our President and The IEA movement because until the nations come together to provide and produce enough oil for the world there will be war. America will have to lead the march to modernization. We are actually the #1 producer of oil in the world today. Obama has strengthened our relation with Canada and China. Much to do. Peace

        August 29, 2014 at 2:02 pm |
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