There are two main Shiite militant organisations in Iraq: Ayatollah al Hakim's Badr Brigades/SCIRI group, and Muqtada Sadr's Mehdi Army. These groups exist as an Iraqi Shiite version of the Hatfields and McCoys. Grasping the political distinctions and dynamics between these two competing Shiite power groups is key to understanding major aspects of the ongoing strife inside Iraq.
However, for whatever reasons, there seems to be much public confusion/conflation and general lack of awareness by many of our political leaders and the US media, of the distinctive roles, political affinities, and political goals of these two key Shiite Iraqi power bases. Thus I will attempt to profile them in this diary.
Al Hakim's SCIRI party/Badr Corps has been our most significant pro-US occupation Shiite military ally for the past 3 years. But Hakim's group is also an Iranian-aligned and supported militant Iraqi Shiite clan that the Baathist regime severely repressed after it came to power in 1968. Hakim's Shiite clan moved out to Iran during the Iran-Iraq war and fought on the side of Iranians against Saddam during that war, and also rose up against Saddam militarily in post-Desert Storm 1991, after GHWB called upon them to rebel against Saddam, and promised to support their fight, but then reneged on the promised support--leading to Saddam's massive Fallujah-style slaughter and retribution of southern Shiites from Hakim's clan and others.
Muqtada Al Sadr's Mehdi organization is the other main militant Iraqi Shiite clan in Iraq. It is openly anti-US-occupation, nationalistic/anti-partition, and not historically friendly with Iran. A longstanding Hatfield-McCoy historical feud exists between the Sadr and Hakim clans, which the Baathists and Saddam cunningly exploited and exacerbated to keep the Iraq Shiite majority weak and divided [US seems to be doing the same now], and the predominately Sunni Baath regime in power.
Sadr's constituency was also as brutally repressed by the Baathists, as Hakim's group was, but most of Sadrists (mostly poor, urban Shiites) remained inside of Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war, and were conscripted into the Iraqi Army. They fought, often as cannon-fodder, against the Iranians (and the Hakim Shiites). From this war experience, the Sadrists have no great love-loss for the Iranians, nor for the Hakim Shiite faction (and vice-versa), since both were shooting at the Sadrist conscripts from Iranian foxholes during the 8 years long Iran-Iraq war.
In contrast to Hakim's pro-occupation SCIRI/Badr bloc, The Sadrist Iraqi Shiite faction is staunchly nationalistic [anti-US occupation, anti-partition], historically not aligned with Iran [this fact seems to be consistently conflated/obfuscated by US politicians and media when speaking on the subject of Shiite Sadrist militias], and until the Sammara Golden Mosque was provocatively blown up last February, the Sadrist's were actively seeking alliances and coordination with nationalistic Iraqi Sunni insurgent groups operating in outlying predominately Sunni areas.
US has been actively supporting the pro-Iranian/pro-occupation Hakim clan for the past three years with weapons, military training, and with efforts to staff the Iraqi army, police, and civil bureaucracies and ministries with Hakim followers, in a similar way to how US is supporting the Iraqi Kurdish pesmerga militias.
Hakim's Shiite organization has been engaged since the occupation began:
- skirmishing/fighting politically and militarily with the Sadr anti-occupation Shiite organisation
- supporting US military operations and Special Ops counterinsurgency [aka 'deathsquad', to be blunt] activities against Sunni [and Shiite] insurgent groups and restive areas [ie Fallujah, Ramadi, Kirkuk, Tal Afar etc].
- working toward/hoping for an Iraq partition arragement whereby Hakim's pro-Iran group will have control of southern oil fields
In contrast, US has been generally engaged in efforts to neutralize/destroy the nationalistic Sadrist movement for the past three years.
Sadr's organization has been functioning since the occupation began in:
- resisting the US occupation, and working Hezbullah/Hamas-style to provide a civil/support/protection infrastructure to its mostly poor urban constituency
- fighting turf battles and worse with Hakim's SCIRI/Badr forces
- Trying intermittently to break bread and seek alliances with nationalists and insurgents in outlying Sunni regions [ie Fallujah, Ramadi, Kirkuk, Tal Afar etc] and trying to keep the lid on sectarian violence and backlash from his constituents following the pattern of horrendously deadly and provocative bombings of Shiite shrines and targets that has been going on inside Iraq since early fall 2003.
- Trying to stop the Iraq state partition plans
In brief summary then:
Hakim's Badr/SCIRI Shiite organisation is:
2. pro-US occupation, and a US proxy-ally force against Iraqi nationalist/anti-occupation groups inside Iraq, at least tactically,
3. Anti-Baathist, anti-Saddam, anti-Sadrist
4. Pro-Iraq partition-fragmentation
Muqtada Sadr's Mehdi/Maliki Shiite organisation is:
1. Pro-Iraqi nationalist; not historically aligned nor particularly friendly with Iran
2. Anti-US occupation; considered to be a threat by the US
3. Anti-Saddam; anti-Hakim; sought alliances with non-sectarian Sunni nationalists in outlying Sunni regions.
4. Opposed to Iraq partition-fragmentation.
For the past three years the US has been supporting the Pro-Iran Hakim Shiites and building up their power as a fighting force against both Sunni and Shiite Iraqi insurgent groups. At the same time the US has been working to wipe out the pro-Iraqi-nationalist Sadr Shiites.
If the Bush-Baker Iraq Study Group's new plan for Iraq [to be announced after the election] is to flip US support and backing from the tenuous Iraqi Shiite (composed of a shock-sensitive mixture of both the Hatfields & McCoys) majority government, back to a neo-Baathist strongman or junta rule paradigm that squeezes out the current main Shiite power groups, it will likely propel both Shiite militant factions against the US occupation forces with much greater hostility, and drive the chaos and societal demolition in Iraq even further.