Sep 1 2012
By Laith Jawad
Azzaman, September 1, 2012
The Mahdi Army, an Iraqi militia group, has sent none of its members to take part in the fighting in Syria, a senior member of Iraqi parliament said.
Dhiyaa al-Assdi, who heads a major parliamentary block, described reports on the presence of Mahdi Army fighters in Syria as “nonsense.”
The Mahdi Army is the military arm of the Sadr movement, a Shiite political group with influence in low-income Shiite neighborhoods in major Iraqi cities in the central and southern parts of the country.
The army, believed to be armed by Iran, is the second most powerful Iraqi militia after the Kurdish militia group known as peshmerga.
The armed group was a strong opponent of U.S. occupation troops in Iraq and its members fought U.S. marines on several occasions.
“The duties that are assigned to the Mahdi Army do not go beyond Iraqi borders,” Assdi said.
The fighting in Syria has polarized Muslims in the Middle East with Shiites siding with the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and Sunnis with the rebels fighting his rule.
The official Iraqi line is of neutrality and distance from what is going on in neighboring Syria.
The Interior Ministry has also rejected allegations of Iraqis being involved in fighting in Syria.
: “We deny allegations of any armed Iraqis crossing the border into Syria to defend the regime of Bashar al-Assad.” The ministry said in a statement. “Iraq calls for neutrality vis-à-vis the conflict in Syria.”