While members of the U.S. House of Representatives take turns weighing in on President Bush's planned troop surge in Iraq, the focus in Iraq is not on the arrival of more U.S. troops, but the departure of one of the country's most powerful men, Moqtada al Sadr and members of his army.Now I'm sorry but this doesn't pass the smell test. The Disney Channel is not a very reliable source but one the White House would use to disseminate mis-information. And why would al Sadr be afraid of another 20,000 US troops? He has managed to run circles around the US up to this point and his people are in the government and security forces. But let's assume for a moment that he is in Tehran - what could it mean? A temporary sabbatical to give al-Maliki some breathing room? There has been some question about how much control al Sadr had over his army of late anyway. So is the US dealing with 60,000 loose cannons. We will see how this materializes but I suspect the wingers may be counting their chickens before they hatch.
According to senior military officials, al Sadr left Baghdad two to three weeks ago and fled to Tehran, Iran, where he has family.
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."
Sources say some of the Mahdi army leadership went with al Sadr.
Though he is gone for now, many believe al Sadr is not gone for good. In Tehran he is trying to keep the Mahdi militia together.
This report from MSNBC is a bit more rational than the one from the Disney Channel.
Responding to reports that radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr had fled to Iran in recent weeks, a U.S. official tells NBC News the head of the anti-American Mahdi Army militia has "been there for a month. He goes back and forth all the time."Sorry boys, doesn't sound like commander codpiece scared him off after all.
"We assume he is in Iran now," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "We haven't heard when he is coming back."
The official cautioned that al-Sadr "goes back and forth (between Iraq and Iran) quite a bit."
Lawmakers and officials linked to al-Sadr have denied that he had left the country, with one saying the cleric had met with government officials late Tuesday in the Shiite holy city of Najaf.
An Iraqi government official said al-Sadr was in Najaf as recently as Tuesday night, when he received delegates from several government departments. The official, who is familiar with one of those meetings, spoke on condition of anonymity because he has no authority to disclose information on his department's activities.
Lawmaker Nassar al-Rubaie, the head of Sadrist bloc in parliament, also insisted al-Sadr had not left the country.
"The news is not accurate because Muqtada al-Sadr is still in Iraq and he did not visit any country," al-Rubaie told The Associated Press.