Iraqi Militia Forms to Protect Shiites in Region

A former Mahdi army figure claims that the region’s Shiites and Muslim Brotherhood are planning for a long-term confrontation.

al-monitor Fighters from Iraq's Islamist Shiite militias celebrate before departing to Syria from Baghdad, June 11, 2013.  Photo by REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani.

Topics covered

sectarian, iraqi clerics

Sep 10, 2013

“Our stance toward Syria is not the end of it. It is the first step of a project to protect the Shiites and defend their interests in the region,” said former leading figure of the Mahdi army, Sheikh Abu Muhammad al-Saaidi, in a sharp tone during a lecture in an east Baghdad mosque to mostly of young male worshipers who fought in Syria.

Saaidi told Al-Hayat, “There is a misreading on the part of the United States and its allied regimes about Najaf’s positions with regard to the problem in Syria. [That misreading] has led them to think there was a split and [cool relations between Najaf and] Qom and that this makes the Shiites up for grabs on the pretext of toppling the [Bashar al-]Assad regime ... There is a new project being prepared. It is in its final stages. It starts by coordinating the work of all religious figures who participated in the protection of the Sayyida Zeinab shrine [in Damascus]. [Those religious figures are from] Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, Bahrain and Iran and they are to be connected with clerics who achieved a [high level of religious scholarship] in order to unify their efforts and confront the phase that will come after the colonial military intervention in Syria.”

This month, the Najaba’ group, which includes several battalions of Shiite fighters, issued a statement threatening to strike American interests and facilities in Iraq and the region in the event of a military strike on Syria.

Saaidi, a cleric who was part of the Mahdi army and who engaged US troops in Baghdad, Najaf and southern Iraq, said that he is sending fighters to Syria “to protect the Sayyida Zeinab shrine.”  

“[The] situation is just like what happened to Iraq after the occupation in April 2003, when the Muslim Brotherhood made a double deal with the remnants of the former regime and with the takfiri Salafist movement, which engaged in direct military action under the pretext of resisting the occupation and took political and logistical support from the Muslim Brotherhood and the Baathists. That is what's happening now in Syria. That patch of land is being turned into a theater of chaos and a bazaar for mercenaries who rob from the people their chance of getting rid from an unjust and dying regime that doesn’t deserve to stay in power for even a few hours, and all that to change the demography of the region and draw a new political geography that ends the phobia of the Shiite Crescent (Tehran-Baghdad-Damascus-Beirut).

“But there is great understanding and a quasi-consensus among the religious and political Shiite forces that the sectarian fight in the region will emerge from Syria, and that the world powers are working hard make that happen ... Wise and reasonable people should keep the gunpowder of politics away from the oil wells.”

Saaidi continued, “The war in Syria, if it develops, will be a battle between the Shiites and the Muslim Brotherhood throughout the region ... There are calls by Shiite clerics, who are references of the second line, to find a balance of terror by developing the work of the Shiite fighting formations now in Syria, organize them better and use them in the sectarian conflict. This means that the brigades of Abou al-Fadl Abbas, al-Najaba’, Zulfiqar, al-Hashimiyyat, Sayyid al-Shuhada and others will one day be seen fighting in Bahrain or Yemen to support the Houthis or in Egypt, if the Brotherhood returns to power, to support the Shiites or under the pretext of protecting sacred shrines there. You may one day also see them shut down the Strait of Hormuz with Iran’s help, and extend the influence of the Houthis to Bab el-Mandeb, and to have a foothold in the Sinai to threaten the Suez Canal.”

Saaidi said, “The experience of fighting in Syria (i.e., the Shiite militias) gave us experience and propaganda and mobilization toward something specific and that can be used to widen the battlefield to include several hotbeds that are ready to flare up at any time in the Gulf region and other regional countries.”

Political analyst Ahmed al-Adad said, “The notions of conflict have changed from what they were 2003, and they changed further after the overthrow of the Moammar Gadhafi regime and the shaking of the political map. [Things changed] to the point that the world’s biggest countries have lost control over their allies.”

He continued, “The schemes of the Muslim Brotherhood, according to our reading, extends from the West Bank to the Strait of Hormuz. They want to bring down regimes in the region, gain control of the oil wealth and use it to implement their global plans. That would allow them to dominate the energy transportation contracts with the ‘infidel’ West, as they call it. They would also establish a non-secure area on the east side of the Bab el-Mandeb to converge with their political project in Egypt and take over the Suez Canal, which would allow them to choke off the supply routes for the Shiites in Iran and Iraq.”

Continue reading this article by registering at no cost and get unlimited access to:
  • Al-Monitor Archives
  • The Week in Review
  • Exclusive Events
  • Invitation-only Briefings

More from  Abdelwahed Tohmeh