The leader of the Sadr movement, Muqtada al-Sadr, issued a document in which he demanded the prohibition of any military parade by the armed wing of the movement, “Peace Brigades,” without referring back to him. This decision comes to confront the out-of-control weaponry and the potential infiltration of elements within the armed group. The relationship between the Sadrists and the groups loyal to Iran is characterized by significant tension.
In a message directed to the members of the Peace Brigades, Muqtada al-Sadr stated, “To preserve your reputation and out of love for Iraq and its people, any armed military display is absolutely prohibited… except after our approval.”
He also urged the necessity of enacting a law to punish anyone who violates that law and the decision, calling on the general commander of the Peace Brigades, Qais al-Khazali, to “enforce this decision and take the necessary action as soon as possible.”
Al-Sadr formed the “Peace Brigades” group in 2014 to counter the threat of ISIS, which had overrun many cities and posed a threat to the holy Shiite shrines. Alongside other groups that joined the Popular Mobilization Forces, the group has been accused of committing human rights abuses in areas liberated from the extremist organization.
The Peace Brigades also played a role in the political conflict during elections and before the formation of Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani’s government. This included incitement to storm the parliament building and staging a sit-in, which threatened to escalate into a Shia-Shia conflict.
The exact reason for al-Sadr’s decision is not known, but it primarily aims to confront uncontrolled weaponry and the potential for infiltration within the Peace Brigades. Additionally, al-Sadr is concerned about attempts to restrict his movement under the pretext of members of the Peace Brigades committing serious crimes or violations.
The Sadr movement has witnessed multiple splits, with many armed groups breaking away from it. Prominent figures, such as former Deputy Prime Minister Bahaa al-Araji and the leader of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, Qais al-Khazali, who was previously a senior leader in the movement, have left it.
The process of purging some individuals from the Peace Brigades who did not adhere to the Sadrist movement’s directives has already begun. This was evident in the expulsion of one of its members by the Third Division’s leadership within the Peace Brigades in the Basra Governorate.
The Third Division’s action was based on the directives of the general commander of the Peace Brigades. Additionally, al-Sadr expelled six members from the Peace Brigades last Wednesday due to their violation of security checkpoints.
In March last year, the Sadr movement’s leader suspended the activities of the Peace Brigades in Diyala Governorate, northeast of Baghdad, following security breaches that resulted in the killing and injuring of dozens. Al-Sadr justified this decision by the presence of infiltrators.
At the time, Muqtada al-Sadr stated, “The reasons for suspending the activities of the Peace Brigades in Diyala are due to individuals described as infiltrators who are acting in the name of Sadr to kidnap and blackmail the residents. This is not acceptable to reason or humanity.”
He emphasized the commitment to directives that emphasize the necessity of maintaining public order and not repeating such violations. If repeated, the punishment will be more severe.
Many provinces in southern Iraq witness displays by various militias that often feature images of military leaders who have been targeted by US forces or Iranian symbols.