April 18, 2008
NO WONDER GENERAL PETRAEUS VALUES THEM SO HIGHLY:
Cleric Sadr key player in helping poor Iraqis-report (Dean Yates, April 15, 2008, Reuters)
In the report published on Tuesday, Refugees International said Sadr's Mehdi Army militia as well as other Shi'ite and Sunni Arab militias were expanding their influence by providing food, shelter and other essentials to Iraqis left destitute by war.Posted by Orrin Judd at April 18, 2008 6:14 AM
The findings underscore Sadr's mass appeal ahead of provincial elections in October and will cause concern for U.S. officials who see reducing the influence of the militias as one of the Iraqi government's key challenges.
Sadr's political movement will compete for the first time in the local polls and is expected to make gains at the expense of other Shi'ite parties supporting Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. [...]
The Washington-based Refugees International said the Sadrist movement was operating on a similar model to Lebanon's Hezbollah, a group sponsored by Shi'ite Iran that provides a range of humanitarian services in Lebanon.
"Through a Hezbollah-like scheme, the Shi'ite Sadrist movement has established itself as the main service provider in the country," said the report.
"This sustainable programme provides shelter, food and non-food items to hundreds of thousands of Shi'ites in Iraq."