Third Anniversary of the Madhi Uprising
April 2007 marks the third anniversary of Moqtada al-Sadr's defining moment: the Shi'ite uprising of 2004. After formally establishing the Madhi Army in April, 2003, Sadr was ready in a year's time to fight the Coalition openly. After a US crackdown on his political activities early 2004, "Sadr gave an unusually heated sermon to his followers on Friday, April 2, 2004. The next day, violent protests occurred throughout the Shi'ite south that soon spilled over into a violent uprising by Mahdi Army militiamen, fully underway by April 4, 2004." Although the Madhi uprising was beaten down by June, 2004, Sadr used the political capital and game he gained thereby to enter the political arena. Here's a look back in recent history:
On June 6, 2004, Moqtada al-Sadr issued an announcement directing Mahdi Army to cease operations in Najaf and Kufa. Remnants of the militia soon ceased bearing arms and halted the attacks on U.S forces. Gradually, militamen left the area or went back to their homes. On the same day, Brigadier General Mark Hertling, a top US commander in charge of Najaf, Iraq, stated "The Moqtada militia is militarily defeated. We have killed scores of them over the last few weeks, and that is in Najaf alone. [...] The militia have been defeated, or have left." June 6 effectively marked the end of Shi-ite uprising. The total number of Mahdi Army militamen killed in the fighting across Iraq is estimated at between 1,500 and 2,000.
The return of Najaf to Iraqi security forces following the cease-fire left Sadr City as the last bastion of Mahdi Army guerillas still pursuing violent resistance. Clashes continued periodically in the district following the end of the Najaf-Kufa battles. On June 24, Mahdi Army declared an end to operations in Sadr City as well, effectively ending militia activity, at least for the time being. Sadr appeared to be planning to turn his faction into a political party, having gained a good deal of public support.
But Sadr never fully took the path of peace. His militia continued to cause trouble. The Madhi army is widely believed to be fueling sectarian violence by targeting Sunnis. In 2006, Sadr's men seized Amarah temporarily before being driven out. The Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki entered into an accomodation with Sadr, whose men were by now reported to be receiving support from the Qods force of Iran. Recently, following changes in Rules of Engagement that have permitted US forces to take a more aggressive role, there are reports that Madhi Army is splitting up. Sadr himself is reported fled to Iran.
One of the US counterattacks three years ago was named Operation Smackdown. Task Force 2d Battalion, 37th Armor (TF 2-37), attached to the 2d Armored Cavalry Regiment (ACR) was charged with retaking Kufa. The story of that engagement is given here. There is also video on YouTube showing pretty lengthy clips from Operation Smackdown.