Iraq’s Turkomen leaders did not let the grass grow under their feet after Ankara withdrew its political and military protection (as DEBKA-Net-Weekly 211 reported). Cut adrift from their historic patron and alone against the Kurds and Sunni Arabs, the Turkomen turned for a new protector to the radical Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr in the southern shrine town of Najef.
In return for providing them with insurance and lobbyist services with the Shiites and government in Baghdad, the Turkomen offered to act for him and his faction in northern Iraq where the Medhi Army’s presence is sparse. After a few days’ thought, Sadr took up the offer and a pact was signed between them.
While this deal between two fringe groups appears to be of little importance, DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Iraq sources recall that the two groups have got together before and made trouble.
In mid-2004, when Sadr’s Mehdi Army was at the peak of its revolt against US forces in Karbala and Najef, his men suddenly sprang on US forces in Ramadi and Samarra, turning up unexpectedly in the middle of the Sunni Triangle. The Americans were taken by surprise because they had received no intelligence of the secret deal between the radical Shiite cleric and Turkomen leaders which gave him free, undercover passage through their lands. They also provisioned Mehdi army militiamen with food and water and hid them so that they were able to sneak up on the Americans and take them unawares.
Since Sadr and his Mehdi Army were defeated in August 2004, they have kept out of fights. But he will no doubt have made a mental note of the fact that many Turkomen are Shiites. The further north their habitations, the more fervently Shiite they are and the more willing to join guerrilla warfare against American forces – in collaboration with Iraqi Sunni guerrillas and al Qaeda. The Turkomen of Mosul and Tal Afar are therefore the most militant of all.