Awan Daily reported that Moqtada al-Sadr is attempting to reconcile with the League of the Righteous before the January 2010 elections. A delegation from the League is set to travel to Qom, Iran to meet personally with Sadr. According to Awan, they are likely to reject rejoining the Sadr movement before the vote, and are planning to run on their own, led by former Transport Minister Salam al-Maliki. Currently al-Maliki is the spokesman for the League.
Sadr may not be the only suitor for the League. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law may also court them. In March 2009 it was revealed that Baghdad was acting as a middleman in negotiations between England and the League to release five British hostages that the group kidnapped in 2007. The deal was to release members of the League in return for the Britons. By May the League said they wanted to run in the parliamentary elections. The Maliki government stated that it was important for Iraq’s future for the group to renounce violence. In August the Prime Minister met with representatives of the League who said that they had given up on violence and wanted to be integrated into the political process. In turn, Baghdad has been requesting the U.S. free dozens of League members in their custody. Sadr condemned this move, saying that anyone who was involved in resistance to the government should be excluded from politics. He’s obviously changed his mind as the elections are drawing nearer. For Maliki, if he were to run with the League it would cut into Sadr’s base, which is a key part of the new Iraqi National Alliance.
Qais Khazali is the leader of the League of the Righteous, and is still in U.S. custody. Khazali was a follower of Sadr’s father Ayatollah Mohammed Sadeq al-Sadr, and helped keep the movement alive after his death at the hands of Saddam’s government in 1999. Khazali later became a follower of Moqtada after the U.S. invasion, but quickly broke away. In 2004 after the second Sadrist uprising against the Coalition, Khazali refused to follow the cease-fire and formed his own militia in Sadr City. By early 2005 Sadr was able to bring him back into the fold, and named Khazali one of the heads of his organization. The next year Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Qods Force picked Khazali to head its network of Iranian supported and trained militias, which became known as Special Groups. That was when the League was formed. They carried out two spectacular attacks. The first was the January 2007 raid on the Karbala Joint Coordination Center in which five U.S. soldiers were killed. This led to the arrest of Qais and Laith Khazali in Basra in March. Second, the League kidnapped the five Britons from the Finance Ministry in Baghdad in May 2007. In 2008, the League was scattered after Maliki’s crackdown on militias. Moqtada has tried to hold talks with them off and on before, but to no avail, and may not be any more successful this time.
Abdul-Zahra, Qassim, “Report: Deal close to free Britons seized in Iraq,” Associated Press, 3/29/09
Agence France Presse, “2nd UPDATE: Iraqi PM Met Group Behind Kidnap Of Britons,” 8/3/09
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Associated Press, “Baghdad’s blast walls to come down,” 8/6/09
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Awan Daily, “Maliki announced next week, the electoral coalition,” 9/25/09
Chulov, Martin, “Split among captors hits hope of freedom for British hostages in Iraq,” Guardian, 5/28/09
Cochrane, Marisa, “Asaib Ahl al-Haq and the Khazali Special Groups network,” Institute for the Study of War,” 1/13/09
- “The Fragmentation of the Sadrist Movement,” Institute for the Study of War, January 2009
Dagher, Sam, “Sadr reins in Shiite militiamen, sends mixed signals,” Christian Science Monitor, 3/31/08
Felter, Joseph and Fishman, Brian, “Iranian Strategy in Iraq, Politics and ‘Other Means,’” Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, 10/13/08
Howard, Michael, “Iraqi minister incensed by airport display bans alcohol,” Guardian, 8/5/05
Nordland, Rod and Dagher, Sam, “U.S. Will Release More Members of an Iraqi Militia,” New York Times, 8/17/09
Roads To Iraq, “Iraqi pre-election political map – The Shiites,” 9/21/09
Rubin, Alissa and Gordon, Michael, “U.S. Frees Suspect in Killing of 5 G.I.’s,” New York Times, 6/9/09
Xinhua, “Iraq frees 147 prisoners linked to abduction of 5 Britons: newspaper,” 9/28/09
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