Mahdi Army groups in Sadr City are accusing SCIRI of setting up the American military operation against them. This could spell further trouble in Shi’ite cities in the south and another confrontation between the Mahdi Army and Iraqi security forces (dominated by SCIRI and Badr).
Sources in Sadr City reported that a son of Abu Dera’ and an aide were killed in the first American raid against the Chuwadir area of Sadr City Wednesday. Abu Dera’ is a feared name in Sadr City and Sunnis accuse him of atrocities against their community in several districts surrounding Sadr City. It’s hard to get facts about him since he has become a sort of a legend in that area of Baghdad, but people now claim that Sadr personally appointed him the responsibility of cleaning up the ranks of the Mahdi Army in Sadr City and that he has started cracking down on rival gangs and splinter Mahdi Army groups in the area. Following the American raid, he is reported to have fled behind the Sadda and is now in the Al-Amin district, just southeast of Sadr City. Clashes are still reported from Sadr City and American troops have blocked all main streets leading into the huge slum.
Tensions are still high in Amara, Diwaniya and Samawa. There was a failed assassination attempt against the military intelligence commander (a SCIRI member) in Samawa, and there were clashes between militias and the Iraqi police in Suwayra southeast of Baghdad. All are signs of the increasing distrust between the Sadrist movement and SCIRI, which form the largest blocs inside the UIA.
There was a brief scare at Najaf Thursday when local authorities closed down the shrine for an hour, citing a security threat. The shrine has been opened since but there are speculations on several Iraqi message boards that an incident at the shrine may be created in order to relieve the current tensions between the U.S. and the Shia and in order to speed up the formation of the Shi’ite federal region in the south.
In a related development, Muqtada Al-Sadr issued instructions to his followers yesterday to avoid an open confrontation with American troops and what he described as “their Nawasib followers.” Nawasib in Shia literature roughly translates to ‘those who have set themselves against the prophet’s household.’ It’s a historical reference to Muslim caliphs and armies who have persecuted the prophet’s grandsons and their followers (the Shia). The term is used today in Iraq among Shi’ite circles as a veiled code for Sunnis, although they deny that and say they only mean terrorists who target the Shia. But many Sunni victims were taunted as Nasibis before their torture or execution by Shi’ite militias. Another significant point in the communiqué is a sense that the media is unfairly aligned against the Shia, a point which I’ll return to later. But here is the text of the statement (my translation):
1- I strongly reject, or I should say it is forbidden, to participate in any Shia-Shia, Sunni-Shia, or Iraqi strife, for whatever excuse. Preserving our beloved Iraq and driving out the ghost of occupation is our goal. Know that this infighting benefits the menacing trinity in general, and the occupier in particular. Therefore, do not be assisting them.
2- The murder, martyrdom or detention of any one of the believers by the occupation [forces] or any other security force is a glory and an honour for me and all the believers on earth, as long as we are right. That does not mean armed deployment and irresponsible reactions. Consult with your Hawza in everything. If it says go back, then go back. Just as you obeyed [your Hawza] in your jihad, obey it in your peace. And as my father (hallowed be his secret) said: “As I have told you one day, you should obey the orders of your clerics. Do not move and do not say a thing before your religious leadership says something. It is unacceptable, my dear. Because then you will only harm yourselves, your religion, your life and your afterlife.”
3- The media and military campaign waged by the forces of darkness, represented by the occupiers and the Nawasib, against the followers of the two Sadrs has become clear. On one hand, they raid the offices of the Martyr (hallowed be his secret) and cultural centres, and on the other they detain and assassinate the personalities of this honourable movement, in addition to the media war by paid channels. After their proclaimed war on terror in Iraq, represented by the Nawasib, they have replaced this with a war against the [Shia] sect, and the sons of the two Sadrs in particular. Developments in Baghdad and its surroundings have only proved the cooperation of the Nawasib with the occupier, and the cooperation of the media with both. They do not display their explosives and suicide vests, but instead they present it as self-defense against an attack. Shame on them and on their actions.
With great regret, this is all evident to leaders and politicians, but none have whispered a word [against it]. In general, be alert my dear brothers in this army and do not allow them to drag you to what they want. Instead we want you to preserve yourselves so that the powers and armies of darkness are not allowed to dominate our beloved Iraq. Let everyone know that my sole enemy is the occupier and his Nawasib followers. I will not accept any other party, be it Sunni or Shia, to be my enemy. They are your brothers in life and the afterlife, and an attack on any Iraqi is an attack against you and me. So fear Allah and be mindful. If I am killed or detained or forced to be away from you, commit to your religion and your sect and preserve your Iraq and your unity and your brotherhood, and do not be scattered, for the blood of our martyrs, the two Sadrs, are a torch that will light your way until Judgement Day. Their movement is never-ending and is here to stay.
Sheikh Jabir Al-Khafai, an aide to Sadr, reiterated these instructions during his Friday sermon at the Kufa mosque, demanding that all followers of the Sadrist movement observe them and obey Sadr. He warned that some elements were attempting to “climb on the shoulders of the honourable movement” for their own personal interests.