As predicted, soon after the Sadr Trend announced that it was trying to reconcile with the breakaway Special Group, the League of the Righteous, a blow-up occurred between the two. On December 8, 2010, a member of the Sadrist movement told the press that they were going to send a delegation to meet with leaders of the League in an attempt to bring them back into the fold, get them to reject violence, and join the political process. Ten days later, the League asked to bury two of its fighters in a Sadrist cemetery in Najaf. When they said no, a firefight broke out, but with no reported casualties. Afterward, the two sides released statements attacking each other. Moqtada al-Sadr said that the government needed to stop trespassers into the Najaf cemetery, called the League corrupt, and accused them of trying to discredit him in the eyes of his followers. He went on to say that the League should be banned from joining politics because they had used violence to kill Iraqis. A spokesman for the League stated that they would not give up their weapons as long as the U.S. occupied Iraq, thus rejecting the Sadrists' overture.
Sadr has held talks off and on with the League since 2008, with little to show for it. In December 2009 for example, Sadr issued a communiqué calling on the League to rejoin his movement. That same month however, the two groups held competing processions during a religious ceremony and taunted each other. Nothing came of the negotiations.
Every time an attempt is made to bring the two sides back together, they end up denouncing each other. This month’s events follow that pattern. The two sides apparently have little love for each other, especially at the grassroots level. Yet two years of failure has not ended the efforts at reconciliation. As in the past, after this latest spat, the Sadrists will try again. That’s because since 2004 various groups have broken off from the movement, which have weakened Sadr’s control of the street and violence, which were his main paths to power. Now, the Trend wants to consolidate its position as the main opponents to the U.S. presence in Iraq, as well as being the leading Shiite party after the March 2010 elections. If they can bring the League back into the fold, it will be another step in achieving those goals. Given their recent history however, that may be easier said than done.
AK News, “Attempt to incorporate al-Haq group in political process,” 12/8/10
Alsumaria, “Sadr rebukes Asaib Ahel al Haq,” 12/18/10
Daragahi, Borzou, “Muqtada Sadr’s Mahdi Army militiamen slowly resurface,” Los Angeles Times, 6/28/10
Roads To Iraq, “Al-Sadr’s election campaign, questioning Maliki is the next political crisis,” 12/9/09
Zahra, Hassan Abdul, “Iraq’s Sadr in war of words with splinter group,” Agence France Presse, 12/18/10