February 14, 2007


Reports issued last night saying that the man dubbed "Mullah Atari" for his video game addictions, Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, may have fled from Iraq to Tehran, are being disputed:

The chief U.S. military spokesman in Iraq said Wednesday that Muqtada al-Sadr has left the country and is believed to be in Iran, despite denials from the radical Shiite cleric's supporters. Maj. Gen. William Caldwell declined to comment on the reasons al-Sadr had left the country or give more details.

"We will acknowledge that he is not in the country and all indications are in fact that he is in Iran," Caldwell told reporters in Baghdad.

Lawmakers and officials linked to al-Sadr have denied that he had left the country, with one saying the cleric had met with government officials late Tuesday in the Shiite holy city of Najaf.

An Iraqi government official said al-Sadr was in Najaf as recently as Tuesday night, when he received delegates from several government departments. The official, who is familiar with one of those meetings, spoke on condition of anonymity because he has no authority to disclose information on his department's activities.

Lawmaker Nassar al-Rubaie, the head of Sadrist bloc in parliament, also insisted al-Sadr had not left the country.

"The news is not accurate because Muqtada al-Sadr is still in Iraq and he did not visit any country," al-Rubaie told The Associated Press.

The charge, accurate or not, could have the following ramifications.

  • If he has already fled, his credibility drops. It will be very difficult for him to retain any political credibility or inspire his followers while hiding in another country, and he might never be able to regain his prestige.
  • If still in Iraq, it makes it far more difficult for al-Sadr to leave. If Al-Sadr is still in Iraq as alleged by his followers, political pressure from his own supporters will make it far more difficult for him to actually flee without suffering severe penalties, perhaps dissolving his credibility entirely among both his political allies and his militant followers
  • Locking him in to staying makes his capture or death more likely. Despite the near-hysterical shrieking of the fringe left, the Bush Administration has made it abundantly clear that they would prefer to no engage Iran in a war, so if al-Sadr made it to Tehran, he would be far out of U.S. reach. As long as he is in Iraq—perhaps kept there by a fear of becoming marginalized if he fled—then he will be much easier to target, should coalition forces decide that he needs to be taken down.

Whether this is a psychological operation or not is nearly irrelevant at this point. Al-Sadr is now on the defensive, which is precisely where the coalition prefers him to be.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at February 14, 2007 10:00 AM

We're turning a corner! Break out the $20 million in pre-ordered party hats! One more Freidman till victory!

Posted by: Zifnab at February 14, 2007 12:06 PM

This reminds me of a scene from the movie "Under Fire". Ed Harris plays a mercenary, then in Chad. The Cubans are providing pilots for one side, while the CIA is helping the other side. The CIA guys drop leaflets, which offer a ranch house in Florida for the Cuban pilots. Nick Nolte plays a reporter who scoffs. Ed Harris says that the CIA guys are the smartest guys in the world. He says the Cuban pilots are grounded out of fear that they'd fly the planes over to the CIA in order to get into the US. So, the CIA psy-ops shuts down the best pilots of the enemy.

If Muqtie hasn't left, this is a great psy ops gag. Ha, ha, smartest guys in the world.

Posted by: Jabba the Tutt at February 17, 2007 09:59 AM