Rome, 19 Jan. (AKI) - In a long interview with Rome-daily La Repubblica published Friday, Iraqi Shiite radical leader Moqtada al-Sadr said he has never trusted prime minister Nouri al-Maliki nor his predecessor Iyad Allawi, whom he described as the brains behind a US-backed plot to destroy him and his militia. Al-Sadr said a crackdown on him and his al-Mahdi Army "has already kicked off." "Last night they arrested over 400 of my people. But it is not us they want to destroy, it's Islam," he said.
A prominent aide of al-Sadr was arrested by Iraqi and United States forces in Baghdad on Friday. The US military said the man arrested was a senior death squad leader. But a spokesman for al-Sadr's political office told Reuters the man detained was Abdul Hadi al Darraji, a media spokesman.
Friday's arrest follows a crackdown, announced by Iraqi prime minister Nouri al Maliki on the al-Mahdi Army, involving 400 arrests this week, and coincides with the arrival in Basra of US defence secretary Robert Gates to meet the US commander in Iraq, General George Casey.
In the interview to the Italian paper, al-Sadr also denied that members of his militia have infiltrated the army and police.
"The exact opposite has happened: it is our militia which is full of spies. It is actually very easy to infiltrate an army of the people."
The Shiite leader also denied that the guards who chanted his name and insulted late Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein during his execution had nothing to do with him.
"No, they were not my men," he said. "Those were people paid to disparage me, to make me appear like the person respondible for the hanging."
While Saddam Hussein was standing on the trapdoor with the noose being fastened around his neck on 30 December last year, guards insulted him and chanted the name of Moqtada al-Sadr. A total 14 witnesses were reportedly present at the execution at the former military intelligence headquarters in Baghdad's highly fortified Green Zone, and some reports alleged the Shiite leader was among them.
“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."