Azerbaijan, Baku, 21 April / Trend corr D. Khatinoglu/ The possibility for official Teheran to restore peace in Iraq is decreasing, given the aggravation of differences between the Mahdi Army controlled by Iran and the Iraqi Government.
Mugtada al-Sadr, the Chair of the Mahdi Army which has been implementing unofficial military activities in Iraq since 2003, threatened the Iraqi Government that he would launcher a full-scale war. On 20 April, ВВС reported that Sadr stated the Government must stop military operations against the Mahdi Army and resort to peaceful means. "That is my last warning," he said.
According to Iraqi and US officials, as well as several new agencies, presently, Sadr is in Iran's Gom city. In order to lessen the number of military clashes in Basra (south of Iraq) between the Government and Mahdi Army, the official Baghdad sent its diplomats to Iran four times in the April. In its last statement, the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maleki urged the Mahdi Army to submit their weapons to the Government; otherwise the political activity of the Army would be banned.
The Iraq-based Shiite organizations and parties closely cooperate with the Government. The Speaker of the Parliament Abdolaziz Hakim, Al-Maleki and many other high-ranking figures suspended military struggle against the new Government and established the basis for political activities. In August 2007, Sadr also stated on suspending its military struggle and said that within 6 months he would stop the military activities of the 'resistance movement'. He said he would join the coalition with Hakim to decrease the political impact of Sunnites being in coalition with the USA. Probably, Sadr unlike Al-Qaida is not ready for complete resistance to USA. In fact, Sadr is interested in gaining more admiration in Iraq.
Some 30 people from Sadr's organization were elected MPs in the last parliament elections and Maleki's several ministers had some relations with this organization. Contrary to claims by U.S. and Iraq officials, Iran denies government support for the Mahdi army. So, the efforts of the Shiite organizations in Iraq, acting as an opposition against the U.S., meet Iran's interests.
Rick Linch, the U.S. general stated on 21 April that 25 Iraqi military men, who are hostages at present, admitted that they had been trained in Iran. The official Tehran has not yet reacted to this statement. Now Sadr does not wish to gain Iran's support. Sadr said in his interview with Al-Jazeera TV last year that he called on Iran not to interfere with Iraq's internal affairs during his meeting with Ali Khamenei, the religious leader of Iran. In his interview with the press on 6 April Mohammadali Hosseini, the spokesperson Iranian Foreign Ministry condemned the Mahdi Army for firing rockets at the Green Zone in Iraq.
Apparently, relations between Iranian officials and Sadr are not as good as it once used to be. On the other hand, the Mahdi Army has been divided into 8 divisions and some of them function independently, outside Sadr's control. Therefore, Iran does not believe that it will be able to take full control over the Mahdi Army.
One of the reasons of the unexpected visit of Condoleezza Rice, the U.S. Secretary of State, to Iraq is to prevent Iran from mediating in the solution of the conflict in Basra and to undetake the responsibity for solving the conflict . Rice officially accused Iran of undermining the stability in the neighboring country. Without doubt, Iran is attempting to increase its authority in Iraq; therefore it is displeased with the fact that it cannot play a key role in the conflict under such important conditions. On the other hand, Iran also is not interested in Maleki's conducting military operations against the Mahdi Army. It is too early to give a concrete forecast regarding which side Iran will support in this conflict and whether it will be able to do it.