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How Strong is the Army of the Hidden Imam?

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gottaB Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-08-04 02:32 AM
Original message
How Strong is the Army of the Hidden Imam?
Edited on Thu Apr-08-04 02:37 AM by gottaB

I have read reports that Sadr's Madhi Army (Jaish al-Madhi, also spelled Medhi) has about 10,000 members, or just a few thousand members, or several tens of thousands.

They don't get paid. Are they martyrs? Are they members of a messianic cult, ready to lay down their lives? Disaffected teenagers with nothing better to do? Patriots?

Let these words sink in:

Those who live in the expectation of the establishment of the government of the concealed Imam are like those who serve under him, or even like swordsmen in Mahdi's retinue. Nay, I swear to God that they are like martyrs who have offered their lives in the company of the Prophet.

Madhi's Advent: The End of Darkness.

I found one news story from last June about Sadr's recruitment drive.

Now the ranks of this religious army, named after an ancient imam who Shias believe will return to save the world, have swollen into tens of thousands, perhaps more.

"On the very first day after the call, up to 1 million people signed," claimed Sheikh Hassan al-Zurgani, a Baghdad representative of the Hawza, a Shia seminary based in Najaf. "The official Iraqi army is the puppet of the USA," he added. "Now our people are willing to be martyrs and the USA must fear us."

For the moment Muqtader al-Sadr, the son of a revered Shia ayatollah murdered four years ago by Saddam Hussein, has not issued any order for mobilisation against the United States. But there is no doubt that Mahdi's army has the potential to be a heavily armed force. "We do not need to issue weapons," said Sheikh Qais al-Kaza'ali, who oversees Baghdad's main rallying point for signatures from a religious centre in Saddam City. "Everybody has their own gun."

The US administration has dismissed al-Sadr and his Mahdi army as nothing more than a nuisance. But on the rundown streets of Saddam City, Shia who were despised and oppressed by the former regime believe they have found a new oppressor.


I don't usually trust the telegraph more than the beeb, AP and Reuters, but something isn't adding up. I believe mainstream media are downplaying the strength of the Madhi Army.

I also wonder about their motivations and beliefs, especially when I hear about them joining forces with Sunni Muslim militias or secular forces. Sadr appears to be emerging as a national hero, as this student suggests: "Moqtada al-Sadr's movement is the only one that calls for the rights of the Iraqi people. He has no ambitions for a position in government and no support from countries outside Iraq" (source).


On Edit, adding a beeb source, and a page from the Council on Foreign Relations.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3604393.stm

http://www.cfr.org/background/background_iraq_alsadr.ph...




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sandnsea Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-08-04 02:47 AM
Response to Original message
1. Sadr City "neighborhood" - 2 million people
"So now the insurgents are fighting in the streets in Baghdad, Fallujah, Basra, Amarah, Nasiriyah and Najaf. There has also been combat between al-Sadr's forces and Ukranian troops in Kut."

"The Telegraph is reporting that Moqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army has now seized Karbala, and that he remains in control of Najaf and Kufa. We also have earlier reports from Reuters that Sadr has taken Kut."

"The reality is that the cities home to 77% of Iraq's population are now engulfed in battle."

Fallujah and Ramadi are Sunni, the rest Sadr and other Shi'ites. Yeah, I'd say they're downplaying the seriousness and strength of the Madhi Army.

http://www.warblogging.com /

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gottaB Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-08-04 03:14 AM
Response to Reply #1
6. The claim of 1 million members--could that be in the ballpark?
It's got to be more than a few thousand, unless that means like, a few thousand in this town, a few thousand in that town, a few thousand down this street....

The problem with just extrapolating from known population densities is figuring out how to account for rival Shiite militias, like the Badr Organization. And I don't know how Sistani's followers are organized militarily, if they are at all. Could one follow both Sistani and Sadr (piously)?

So it could be that people are only now coallescing behind the Madhi Army for whatever reasons, or else the Western press has been systematically underreporting its strength for many months, or both.

Inasmuch as the successes of the Madhi Army come as a shock to the American people, they have been decieved and betrayed.

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Solon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-08-04 02:59 AM
Response to Original message
2. The Numbers matter little, he has a large population that is motivated.
This is a guerrilla war now, and the numbers only matter in how many targets you have available to shoot. He could have as little as one thousand troops, and they could kill American soldiers and disappear with considerably less risk to themselves than to our troops.
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Aidoneus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-08-04 03:00 AM
Response to Original message
3. tens of thousands of members
a support network of hundreds of thousands more, millions more that are sympathetic.

Move along folks, NOTHING to see here..
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Columbia Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-08-04 03:11 AM
Response to Original message
4. "Thieves and idiots!"
"Surely youre watching whats happening now in some neighborhoods in Iraq.. let me explain something about this militia.. ( youll never hear a similar explanation in any TV channel or radio stations but this is the truth and the real picture of Muqtadas group)..

First of all:
That angry dumb and silly boy is not respected by many religious leaders here in Iraq and consider him as a child , he dont have the right to be a religious leader and he dont have any logical and legislative Islamic studies regarding Islam and Sharia..

Second.. that foolish boy has many thieves following him.. why? Do you know that neighborhood Althawra or Al-Sadr city in Baghdad? This is the worst place in Iraq.. yes .. all Iraqis hate that place and never ever reach there.. More than 75% of this neighborhood are thieves and murders .. they are responsible for the looting and robbery acts last year.. and of course due to their rapid and uncontrolled reproduction ( just like the rabbits) ,they have many relatives in some neighborhoods in Iraq, so when they felt that Muqtada is so permissive and may encourage such robberies; they followed him.. they love him.. they feel that hes one of them and his laws are very compatible with their disgusting thoughts and mean goals..
Now we have a silly angry boy and thieves..

The third point .. many idiots still remember his father and they feel that he continues his fathers message in Islam.. the crowds are always around that boy listening to his words that incite and urge them to disobey whatever the GC and CPA say..
Now we have a silly angry boy, thieves and idiots..!
Wow.. what a group!!

Im afraid the world will say that Iraqis dont deserve the liberation because of those people..
Here in Basra, few Muqtadas men are preparing themselves, hiking among the people and in front of banks and shops waiting for another looting and robbery acts and spreading rumors about the situation in other provinces.. they say that the governmental institutes are robbed and everything lost..etc..trying to breach the peace.. some of them are carrying sacks to rob the bank if their leader will succeed and control Iraq!!

Got the picture of this militia?!
Of course theres no one channel can interview an educated Iraqi who dares to say all of that about this militia ..
BTW Im sure that Al-Jazeera is dancing now!"

http://iraqataglance.blogspot.com/
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gottaB Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-08-04 03:23 AM
Response to Reply #4
7. Wow--that's kind of surreal to me
Incidentally, I read reports where Sadr was very critical of the looting, for what it's worth.

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plurality Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-08-04 01:35 PM
Response to Reply #4
12. this sounds like it comes from some rich boy asshole
Sadr city is also the poorest section of Baghdad. I don't like the way he says everyone there is stupid and a thief.

This guy would be similar to someone living in midtown Manhattan saying that all those ******s in Harlem are thieving, murdering crack heads.
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sweetheart Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-08-04 03:11 AM
Response to Original message
5. remember charlie in those black pajamas
Fights and disappears in to civilian life with a gun hidden under
the floorboards.

"strength" is measured, more in will, than in military capability,
as the latter can always be learned. With the will power, a person
can be trained to kill with an index finger to the jugular in a
single blow.

How strong is the will of a people who've already taken 1000's in
repression from the US-saddam alliance? How do you keep an entire
nation imprisoned against their will in to a social model which
they reject. Occupying powers do not win such colonial wars.
Ask britain, ask france, ask belgium, ask portugal, sweden, holland
and spain. The guerilla's sap the will to fight from an imperial
power who has less will to control the conuntry, than the country
to be free.

Anyone remembering their teenage years, and what lengths they were
prepared to go to fight their war of indpendence from their parents..... there is no way to repress a teenager except to kill
them.

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gottaB Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-08-04 04:45 AM
Response to Reply #5
8. There's wisdom in what you're saying, but
I wonder if we shouldn't distinguish between will and devotion, and ask which is more formidable, which is more enduring.


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sweetheart Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-08-04 11:30 AM
Response to Reply #8
10. WE CAN@T AFFORD IT
Edited on Thu Apr-08-04 11:31 AM by sweetheart
Do you REALIZE what we're spending on this occupation, and we went
in unilaterally, we should leave unilaterally and ask the iraqis and
the UN to sort it out... get out bases out of their part of the world
and get back to plowshares. This is bankrupting our whole society.
There is nothing left to come home to boys, the whole nation is bankrupt.
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gottaB Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-08-04 01:27 PM
Response to Reply #10
11. yes,
it's crossed my mind
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theboss Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-08-04 08:05 AM
Response to Original message
9. It's mostly former Iraqi military
Last year, as the regime fell, the Iraqi Army essentially disintigrated. The US basically said, go home to all the soldiers. So, you basically have a group of young men who once were one of the few young men in the country to have a steady paycheck sitting around bored and unemployed for a year.

The one thing I am not sure about is where their arms are coming from. It's either left-over ordinance from the Army. That's preferred since this is a limited supply.

If they are being supplied by Iran, we've got a fairly serious problem.

I don't think this is a particularly skilled group of fighters despite their military backgrounds. The militias in the Arab world are notorious for being lousy fighters with even worse leaders. (This is why I don't buy the Vietnam analogies since the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong actually were very skilled soldiers and had good tacticians).

The danger is their willingness to die fighting, in which case they could take a significant number of Americans with them and create images to rally the next wave.

The bottom line is Sadr is simply trying to make the cost of occupation too high. I think he is banking that there is a magic number of American casualties that will force a withdrawal. I don't think he can actually reach that number.
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gottaB Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-08-04 01:46 PM
Response to Reply #9
14. How does one rate the efficiency of millenarian movements?
That for my thinking could be a dangerous parallel with Vietnam. Skills can be improved, so that's not really a comforting thought for me.

Your observations seem basically on target.

On a Reuters feed yesterday, a marine was assessing his enemy as being rather skilled. That was in Fallujah I believe and did not involve the Madhi Army, but one of the Mohammaden militias made up of Sunnis and many former soldiers.

Others have critized the Madhi Army's lack of skill, but as I said, that's not really a comfort to me.
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theboss Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-08-04 02:14 PM
Response to Reply #14
15. I'm trying to avoid this
Especially with all the racial pooh-poohing elsewhere. But Arab armies are notoriously horrible. They are traditionally undisciplined, poorly trained, and really really badly led. And Arab soldiers are not known for their bravery unless they are on suicide missions (which I'm not sure I would call bravery or mental illness).

So, basically, I wouldn't expect any well-coordinated attacks that surprise Americans by their tactics, even with the presence of some former Iraqi regulars. Any straight-up firefight between Americans and Iraqi militia are going to end in routs well into the foreseeable future.

Having said that (and risked the wrath) of many, things are still very very dangerous. If Sadr really has ten thousand armed men with him, that's stunning. Any close range battle with that many men is going to produce a lot of casualties.

And of course, the militia could get better. A natural leader could emerge. Iran could provide training. Anything could happen.

But I am pretty sure it's always going to be a numbers game rather than a skill/abilities game.
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Aidoneus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-09-04 04:53 AM
Response to Reply #15
17. there are exceptions
Edited on Fri Apr-09-04 04:54 AM by Aidoneus
the Arab Shia Hizbu'llah army was the exception to this. They are highly disciplined, brave, exceptionally led, and most importantly:--successful. Sadr recently gave a nod to them and, in his own way, is trying to partially model himself after Nasrallah (at least, some in the region see the comparison).
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x-g.o.p.er Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-08-04 01:38 PM
Response to Original message
13. Sadr's numbers, at least short term, are dwindling every day
courtesy of the United States Marines. Long term repercussiona are what I worry about
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Aidoneus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-09-04 04:55 AM
Response to Reply #13
18. for every fighter martyred, half a dozen take his place
that's not an issue. Sustaining the campaign (from either side) is the more important point.
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DrWeird Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-09-04 05:16 PM
Response to Reply #13
20. So are the United States Marines.
courtesy of Sadr's army.

Wasn't it Ho Chi Min who said...
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gottaB Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-09-04 04:24 AM
Response to Original message
16. map


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gottaB Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-09-04 05:12 PM
Response to Original message
19. photo: 20,000 Sadr followers in Sadr City
Edited on Fri Apr-09-04 05:17 PM by gottaB
These are not all members of Madhi Army, obviously, but suggestive of a devout following.




and another from al-Hikma Mosque, reportedly shouting "Long Live Muqtada al-Sadr"



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