debkafile Exclusive: Moqtada Sadr ends boycott of Iraqi government and parliament in move to avert Iraqi-US crackdown on his Mehdi Army militia in
He has also warned the Palestinians living in Iraq, most of them Sunni Muslims, they will be killed unless they leave the country immediately.
The Sadrist parliamentary bloc of 30 and its six ministers ended their two-month boycott Sunday, Jan. 21, clearing the way for Shiite PM Nouri al-Maliki to muster majority support for the planned US-Iraqi security crackdown in Baghdad. This was one of several steps taken by Sadr to save his Mehdi Army militia, the largest Shiite private army, and their strongholds in Baghdad’s Sadr City from being targeted as the source of much of the sectarian violence besetting the capital.
Sheik Mahmoud El Hassani, spokesman of Sadr’s militia ordered all 20,000 Palestinians living in Iraq to quit the country or face death. He said the Palestinians, for whom Saddam Hussein provided housing and money, had brought their suffering on themselves by joining forces with Sunni extremists and al Qaeda and for killing Shiites in the Saddam era. “They lived off our blood under Saddam. We were hungry when they were comfortable. They should leave now or they will have to pay,” said the Shiite sheik.
Moqtada Sadr is maneuvering to avert a clash between his militia and beefed up American forces, while at the same time continuing his sectarian onslaught on Sunnis. To be on the safe side, he has ordered his men to melt into the 2.5 million inhabitants of Sadr City and hide their weapons. His tactic is to keep his powder dry in the coming months until the Iraqi-US forces massing Baghdad pull back. He will then re-activate his militia and send them into battle to take over parts of the capital. He hopes the US and Iraqi forces, seeing the Shiites falling back, will turn their guns on the Sunni insurgents instead.
By turning his Mehdi Army against the Palestinians, Sadr wants to win points for helping the Americans quell Sunni extremists and al Qaeda and divert their offensive away from his militia.
When the Americans invaded Iraq in 2003, there were 40,000 Palestinians living in Baghdad, most in the Haifa Street district, today a Sunni insurgent-al Qaeda stronghold. More than half have been driven out and killed. Thousands of Palestinian refugees are stranded on the Iraqi-Jordanian border which has been closed to prevent them crossing into the Hashemite Kingdom. No Palestinian leader, whether Mahmoud Abbas or Hamas, has intervened to alleviate their hardship