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Sadrist MP says movement "most powerful" in Iraq - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Followers of radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr attend Friday prayers in the Sadr City neighborhood in Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, June 28, 2013. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

Followers of radical Shi’ite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr attend Friday prayers in the Sadr City neighborhood in Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, June 28, 2013. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat—A senior figure from the Sadr Movement, led by Shi’ite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr, said the movement was now the most powerful on the Iraqi political scene on Monday.

He also said he was unsurprised by criticism of the Sadr movement from the prime minister’s party and elsewhere.

Mohammed Ridha Al-Khafaji, MP for the Sadr Movement’s Al-Ahrar Bloc, told Asharq Al-Awsat that “at a time when many political parties and movements expressed their rejection of Moqtada Al-Sadr’s announcement of his intention to retire, and calling on him to change his mind, we were not surprised by the position taken by the Da’wa Party, which stems from its leader Nuri Al-Maliki, and also the State of Law Coalition, who were pleased with Sadr’s announcement. We can expect much more from those who conspired with the Americans against Sadr.”

On the differences between the movement and Maliki’s coalition, and whether the Sadr Movement was prepared to assume the position of prime minister, Khafaji said “the previous phase has proved the failure of Maliki, the State of Law and the Da’wa Party, and the results of the provincial council elections have come to prove that further, and therefore, the Sadr Movement is now the most powerful.”

Khafaji further revealed that there will soon be major changes within the Sadr Movement’s leadership and institutions, adding that “the next stage will see events that will astound the world, in regards to what the Sadr Movement will do as a popular youth movement. There will be fundamental changes within its leadership and institutions, and new blood will be introduced in order to raise the movement and its popular and political status, while the older leadership will take a position of consultancy due to their vast experiences.”

Following the July attack on Abu Ghraib and Al-Taji prisons, in which more than 500 Al-Qaeda prisoners escaped, the Sadr Movement joined forces with Shi’ite cleric Ammar Al-Hakim’s Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI). They announced that “the recurrent security breaches clearly demonstrated negligence on the part of those in charge of Iraq’s national security,” pointing to Nuri Al-Maliki, who also holds the defense and national security portfolios, as well as the office of prime minister.

At the time, MP Amir Kinani of the Sadr Movement informed Asharq Al-Awsat: “Among the scenarios which will be put forward will be the resignation of Maliki, the Egyptian scenario of inciting the public to topple the government; or waiting for the results of the next parliamentary elections.”

Khafaji’s statements also followed denials from the Sadr Movement of reports that Moqtada Al_Sadr planned to retire from politics.

The movement said that Sadr had no intention of giving up political activity, and that his absence was due to his decision to undertake a religious retreat at the end of Ramadan.