Firebrand Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is being treated by foreign doctors in a Tehran clinic for a potentially life-threatening illness, sources in Baghdad told Newsmax on Friday.
The Iraqi cleric, who ordered his Iranian-backed “Mahdi Army” last August to refrain from terrorist attacks against U.S. or coalition forces for six months, has angered hard-line supporters who want to resume terrorist attacks, the sources said.
Muqtada al-Sadr is the last remaining scion of a much-revered family of Iraqi Shiite clerics, and is a distant relative of former Iranian president, Mohammad Khatami.
His Mahdi Army has received significant military and financial support from Iran and became a driving force in the early “resistance” to the international coalition that liberated Iraq from Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Sadr’s Iranian backers pushed him to declare a ceasefire last August, as part of an Iranian strategy to lull the United States into believing that the “surge” of U.S. troops was having a permanent impact on the Iraqi domestic political scene.
But Sadr’s hard-line supporters, who maintain separate lines of support to the Quds force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, were angry with the ceasefire, and have continued to use Iranian-supplied IEDs in terrorist attacks against U.S. and coalition forces.
U.S. military officials have fingered the Iranian Revolutionary Guards for supplying Explosively-formed penetrators – a particularly deadly form of IED – to splinter groups of the Sadrist militia.
Admiral William Fallon, commander in chief of the U.S. Central Command, criticized the Iranian regime for its ongoing support of “lawless militia groups” in testimony on Tuesday before the Senate Armed Services committee.
“From the East, Iran pursues a destabilizing political and ideological agenda and is a key source of finance, weapons and training support to lawless militia groups,” Fallon said.
“The Iranian regime provides Shia militia groups in Iraq with training, funding and weapons including lethal Explosively Formed Penetrators (EFPs), a particularly deadly form of Improvised Explosive Device (IED),” he added.
Newsmax sources in Baghdad who are close to Sadr said that the split within his organization has become lethal in recent months, as hard-liners close to the Revolutionary Guards Qods Force have sought to break the ceasefire and continue attacks against U.S. and coalition forces.
“Muqtada’s ceasefire offer outraged his own people,” the sources told Newsmax on Friday. “So they penetrated his inner sanctum, in an effort to stop him. They are willing to kill him to get him to walk back the ceasefire.”
Former Sadr spokesman, Baha al-Araji, has become a key leader of the break-away splinter groups, sources in Baghdad said. Mr. al-Araji is also a member of the Iraqi parliament.
Al-Araji has consistently argued that Sadr’s Mahdi army should not lay down its arms.
“The people underneath Muqtada al-Sadr, in Parliament and in his movement, make Muqtada look like a candy salesman,” a knowledgeable Western source in Baghdad told Newsmax.
“When you look into the eyes of someone like Baha al-Araji, you are looking into the eyes of the Devil, He is one scarcy s.o.b,” the source said.
The Iranian regime is supporting al-Sadr and his relatively conciliatory approach at the same time they are supporting al-Araji, sources in Baghdad told Newsmax.
“Sadr is the clerical figurehead, while al-Araji represents the Quds force influence,” the sources said.
As a member of parliament, Al-Araji has been awarded three large villas in the Green Zone in Baghdad, and has rented out two of them to British defense contractors for substantial cash payments.
“It’s no exaggeration to say that these contractors – whether knowingly, or unknowingly – are directly providing financial support to a terrorist organization,” a knowledgeable Western source in Baghdad told Newsmax.
The Kuwaiti daily al-Siyassa reported earlier this week that Muqtada al-Sadr had been “secretly transferred” a few days ago to a Tehran hospital in a comatose condition, following a bout of food poisoning.
Sources in Baghdad close to Sadr confirmed to Newsmax on Friday that the Iraqi Shiite cleric was indeed in a Tehran hospital and was being treated by “foreign” specialists, presumably Russians.
But they could not confirm the seriousness of his condition or reports that he was near death.
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