Sunday, April 24, 2011

Iraq’s Sadr Launches New Munasiroon Organization

At the beginning of April 2011 Moqtada al-Sadr’s movement announced a new organization, Al-Munasiroon. It is supposed to be a nationwide social group, which will hold peaceful protests and sit-ins. The Sadrists said that they will accept any Iraqi, no matter what their ethnicity or sect, and they do not even have to be part of the trend to join. Its leader is Sheikh Salman Al-Freiji, who led a march in Basra on April 21 to mark Munasiroon’s birth, and to protest against the American presence in the country. Freiji said that their first concern would be supporting the Shiites of Bahrain. Munasiroon is the latest manifestation of the Sadr Trend.
Sadrists portraying a captured American soldier in Basra march April 21 (Reuters)
Sadr march in Basra April 21 (Reuters)
The Sadrists have gone through several re-organizations in the last couple years. In August 2008, Sadr said that he was disbanding his Mahdi Army militia, and creating al-Mumahidoon. There would still be an armed wing, but it would be renamed the Promised Day Brigades. It would be small, secret, and only focused upon fighting the Americans. In contrast, Mumahidoon would deal with education, services, Islamic teachings, social organizing, and politics. The Promised Day Brigades would exist to maintain Sadr’s more militant followers. Many of them had been breaking away since 2004, and joining other militias or the Iranian backed Special Groups. Mumahidoon would allow the trend to keep contact with the Iraqi street, its main base, while also returning to politics, something Sadr had abandoned in 2006 when he boycotted parliament and Maliki’s cabinet
Poster announcing new Mumahidoon group in 2008 (Associated Press)
The Sadrists have been successful so far in achieving their new goals. The Promised Day Brigades continue to carry out occasional attacks upon U.S. forces, Sadr has been able to maintain his connection with his base, and Sadr’s politicians did extremely well in the 2009 provincial and 2010 national elections. The new Munasiroon group appears to be another attempt by Sadr to appropriate and perhaps even take over the on-going protests in the country. At the same time, focusing upon Bahrain can allow the movement to distract attention away from the government, which the Sadrists hold a prominent position within, to foreign concerns. What’s complicating matters for Sadr is his recent comments about reviving the Mahdi Army that could threaten renewed violence at a time when Iraq is focused upon politics and the development of the economy. Sadr has made a series of astute decisions after the government came down on his movement in 2008. He can still undo what he’s built though, which he’s done before.


Alsumaria, “Sadr front launches “Munasiroun” project in support of Bahraini people,” 4/22/11

Chon, Gina, “Radical Iraq Cleric in Retreat,” Wall Street Journal, 8/5/08

Parker, Ned, “In Iraq, Muqtada Sadr’s followers struggle for relevance,” Los Angeles Times, 11/10/08

Peter, Tom, “After setbacks, Sadr redirects Mahdi Army,” Christian Science Monitor, 8/11/08

Roads To Iraq, “Sadr, Iraqiya political preparations for massive demonstration,” 4/8/11

Wong, Edward, “Iraqis Consider Ways to Reduce Power of Cleric,” New York Times, 12/12/06

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