Reuters is reporting:
The U.S. military believes radical Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, one of Iraq’s most powerful figures, has left the country and is now in Iran, two senior American officials said on Tuesday.
Sadr’s departure was first reported by the ABC News network which said he had fled to Iraq because of fears that he might be targeted by U.S. bombs and worries over his safety because of a fracturing within his organization.
A.J. Strata writes:
I doubt seriously Sadr had as much to fear from the US as he did from the Iraqis, since one of his people planted in the Health Ministry was recently apprehended for running death squads and kiling government officials who appeared to support the coalition (which is why most are IN the Iraqi government). Since this man has been apprehended, and probably by now interrogated to the point he is spilling the beans, Sadr has more to fear from simple tribal vengeance than anything else. Many tribes and families will be looing for retribution of those his ‘man’ had assassinated. Sadr is now the Benedict Arnold of Iraq, so it is no surprise he has had to leave. There would be no sanctuary in the Shia community since he probably killed with impugnity there as well as against Sunni…
If Sadr’s people used Iranian weapons to kill Iraqis, he would be seen in the same light as Saddam – a butcher few in Iraq would defend and most would sign up to be on his firing squad. If this is the case, wacth for the dynamics in Iraq to see radical change. The US will not be the evil invaders, Sadr will become the evil traitor to his people
Al Sadr commands the Mahdi Army, one of the most formidable insurgent militias in Iraq, and his move coincides with the announced U.S. troop surge in Baghdad.
Sources believe al Sadr is worried about an increase of 20,000 U.S. troops in the Iraqi capital. One official told ABC News’ Martha Raddatz, “He is scared he will get a JDAM [bomb] dropped on his house.”