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July 15, 2006
Sadr Itching To Join Hezbollah

Moqtada al-Sadr, otherwise known as the man who brought a knife to a gunfight -- twice -- now wants to put his military genius to work on behalf of Hezbollah. Sadr threatened that his Mahdi Army would not sit on the sidelines while the Zionists attacked Islamists in Lebanon:

The radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr said Friday that Iraqis would not “sit by with folded hands” while Israel struck at Lebanon, signaling a possible increase in attacks from his mercurial militia, the Mahdi Army.

In a written statement, Mr. Sadr also said that he considered the United States culpable in the conflict unfolding in Lebanon, since America was the largest foreign ally of Israel. ...

It is no surprise that Mr. Sadr should rise to Lebanon’s defense. Since 2004, he has transformed his organization into one similar to Hezbollah, the militant Shiite faction there. From its ragtag beginnings, Mr. Sadr’s organization now counts members in the Parliament and important ministers, in addition to thousands of impoverished young men ready at a moment’s notice to take to the streets with Kalashnikovs.

Both the Mahdi Army and Hezbollah have strong ties to Iran, and all three subscribe to a fundamentalist Shiite theology. Some military officials in Iraq have said that Shiite militiamen here may have gotten bomb-making technology from Iran through Hezbollah.

Wong correctly points out the similarities between Sadr and Hezbollah, including the Iranian connections to both. However, unlike Hezbollah in Lebanon, Sadr does not have the political backing of the Shi'a in Iraq. The vast majority of Shi'ites take their cues from Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who has attempted on numerous occasions to get Sadr out of the military business -- at which Sadr has shown almost no talent whatsoever. Sadr's position in politics has strengthened as he backed away from violence, as the Americans and the new Iraqi government want to channel all dissent through the political process.

If Sadr decides to go postal over Lebanon, he may want to emulate Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah and commit an act of war on behalf of a country that he does not run. Unfortunately for Sadr, the Iraqi security forces are in better shape than Lebanon's, and the Americans are still deployed. Sadr ran into American buzz saws at least twice, both times in which he suffered humiliating defeats, including at a mosque Sadr was forced to surrender to Iraqi troops.

Sadr can certainly add to Iraqi misery if he so chooses. However, with the Iraqis strengthening themselves and the Coalition concentrating their attention on Baghdad as other provinces remain quiet, Sadr may find himself back in the same old gunfight, holding the same old knife.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 15, 2006 10:09 AM

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