Promised Day Brigades

FormedNovember 1, 2008
DisbandedGroup is active.
UpdatedAugust 27, 2012

Narrative Summary

The Promised Day Brigade (PDB) was founded around November 2008. The organization is one of several Iraqi "Special Groups," a U.S. military term assigned to Iranian-backed Shiite militias operating primarily in and around Sadr City and Baghdad. The PDB is one of the most prominent of these small, foreign militias, along with Asaib al-Haq (AAH) and Kataib Hezbollah (KH). The PDB is the successor organization to Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army that disbanded during 2007-2008 fighting [1]

Although Sadr explicitly denounced sectarian violence on May 25, 2007 [2] and commanded a halt to  Mahdi Army activities following Iraqi and U.S. raids on Iraq's Special Groups, he is believed to privately encourage anti-coalition operations via the PDB. Despite reports that the group would resume activities in February 2008, Sadr announced an extension of the "freeze" until August 2008 [3]. Many leaders within the Mahdi Army requested an end to the suspension, but Sadr opposed, drawing on the fact that militiamen were continuing to receive poor treatment from local authorities following the attacks. The Mahdi Army subsequently issued a statement dissociating itself from any members who ignored the suspension, and soon small specialized groups began forming to carry out attacks [4].

The group's unclear stance on violence is attributed to Sadr's need to placate two constituencies: Sadr's prominent and influential role in Maliki's government, as well as his need to maintain the support of the poor and dispossessed Shiites who represent his political power base. Both constituencies significantly influence his policy decisions [5] Sadr and Maliki's views are generally analogous, experts say, but their alliance is primarily one of political convenience. “Sadr has some vested interest in seeing Maliki succeed because the alternative could be more problematic.” Maliki relies heavily on Sadr’s bloc, which controls thirty seats in parliament, for domestic political support. Likewise, Sadr relies on Maliki for protection and legitimacy. [6]

The PDB actively targets U.S. forces in an attempt to disrupt security operations and further destabilize the nationalization process in Iraq. [7]

There is sparse credible information available regarding the group's attacks, however, June and July of 2011 saw a marked increase in attacks by Iraqi Special Groups. [8] June 28, 2011 was a particularly deadly day for coalition forces. The PDB issued a statement claiming responsibility for 10 mortar and Katyusha rocket attacks against U.S. military convoys [9]. A senior U.S. official in Baghdad confirmed that three U.S. troops were killed. The Shiite militias are suspected to have subsequently struck a U.S. base in proximity to the Iranian border in Iraq’s Wasit province using a large IRAM rocket.  

The attacks that day brought the monthly U.S. military death toll to 15, the highest number in Iraq since June 2009, and the most combat-related deaths since June 2008. [10] [11] [12]

In a July 2011 statement posted on his website, Sadr said nothing to disassociate himself from the PDB's operations against U.S. forces or its claim of responsibility for killing U.S. troops. Instead, he announced the Brigade would have the "mission" of "resisting" U.S. troops if they are not all gone by Dec. 31 – the deadline for withdrawal under the agreement signed by George W. Bush in November 2008. [13]


Leadership

The listed individuals are considered Special Group commanders, with possible leadership positions within the PDB. [14] There are no specific tenure dates available.

In 2003, Moqtada al-Sadr and Imad Mugniyah, a senior commander within Hezbollah, formed the Madhi Army. Since then, Moqtada al-Sadr has been the leader of the group. Sadr is an anti-American Shiite cleric, and though he was relatively unknown prior to 2003, he has since been heralded as "one of the most important Shiite leaders" in Iraq. [15] Sadr is the son of Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr, an important Shiite cleric during the Gulf War and into the 1990s. From 2007 to to 2010 Moqtada al-Sadr studied at a seminary in Qom to become a mujtahid, which would allow him to issue religious decrees. [16] 

The Iraqi and U.S. government security offensives of spring 2008 caused considerable damage to Iranian-backed networks, including Sadr's Mahdi Army. [17] Some questioned Sadr's authority as many "rogue" members continued attacks despite Sadr's request for a cease-fire. [18][19] After the disbanding of the Madhi Army in 2008, the PDB was announced as its successor.

The PDB website features the pictures of two canonized Sadrs—Muhammad Baqir and Muhammad Muhammad Sadiq—"as an indication of the origin of their allegiances." Additionally, many of Sadr's public statements are reproduced. Unlike the other Special Groups but typical of the original Sadrist movement, the PDB website does not mention any religious authority in Iran other than Sadr himself. "This makes them more similar to the indigenous Sadrist movement of Iraq." [20] 

 

  1. Tasheen al Freiji (Unknown to Unknown): Social Political Leader
  2. Mahdi Khaddam Alawi al-Zirjawi (Unknown to Unknown): Sadr City Commander
  3. Baqir al-Sa'idi (Unknown to Unknown): Head of Militia Training
  4. Jawad Kazim al Tulaybani (Unknown to Unknown): Rocket Specialist
  5. Muqtada Al-Sadr (Unknown to Present): Founder

Ideology & Goals

The PDB is believed to be a Shiite, nationalist militia that provides Moqtada al-Sadr's militant followers a way to justify staying within his organization while reserving the theoretical right to fight U.S. forces. This is because Sadr has publicly taken a hard line on U.S. troop presence on behalf of his Shiite constituency, but renounced violence against the occupation to appease Prime Minister Maliki. [21] In practice, many purported members of the PDB appear to collaborate with KH and AAH organizers to participate in small numbers of attacks on U.S. forces. [22] 


The group's main aim is to disrupt U.S. security operations and further destabilize the nationalization process in Iraq. [23]

The PDB and similar Special Groups were recently threatened to be reactivated to serve Iran's strategic agenda as U.S. forces withdrew, including waging war on the Baghdad government if it seeks to become too independent of Tehran and maintain relations with the U.S. [24] In October 2011, group leaders threatened increased violence if the U.S. government permitted occupation past the December 31 withdraw deadline.  [25]

Name Changes

N/A
 

Size Estimates

Resources

The PDB is principally funded by Iran, however, the group is also funded by the Sadrist political organization. Every party lawmaker and minister is believed to donate about $5,000 a month. [27] 

External Influences

While the PDB enjoys support from a large number of sympathizers in Turkey and donations from around the Muslim world, the organization is primarily Iranian-backed. [28] The PDB allegedly receives hundreds of millions of dollars in financial assistance from the government of Iran. However, Iran contributes far less to the PDB than it does to other Shiite militias. Al-Sadr has intentionally limited Tehran's control over the force, primarily for political reasons. Still, Iranian money and weapons continue to flow to al-Sadr and the PDB because of a mutual animosity towards the U.S. and its policies. [29] [30]

The PDB is believed to have gained funding and military expertise inside Iran before exporting their operations across its western border.  [31] Iran denies any influence, but captive Shiite terrorists admit to being recruited by Iranian agents and being transported into Iran for training.

The armed factions that make up the Special Groups have undergone significant transformations in the past several years. Many Special Group operators fled to sanctuaries in Iran following the government security offensives of spring 2008. Since the summer of 2009, these groups have largely recovered and reestablished some presence in Iraq. [32]

Iran supplies funds and arms to Shiite militias such as the PDB  via the al-Quds Forces, which is the special command division of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC). In 2011, hundreds of weapons caches were discovered by U.S. and Iraqi forces that could be traced directly back to Iran. Some of these arms were made as recently as 2010. [33]. Experts believe that the Quds Force crossed into Iraq to provide these arms. [34] [35]

Washington's top U.S. military officer Admiral Mike Mullen said in October 2011 that Iran was stepping up support for Shiite militants in Iraq, supplying them with more sophisticated weapons to be used against U.S. forces. [36]

 

Geographical Locations

PDB's headquarters is in Sadr City, Baghdad. [37] The group's main areas of operation include southern Iraq and Baghdad. [38] 

 

Targets & Tactics

The PDB principally targets Coalition forces, but has also fought other Special Groups for influence in and around Sadr City. In October 2009, PDB defeated rival Special Group Asaib al-Haq (AHH) in an engagement for control of Sadr City, the stronghold of the Sadrists.


The group became more active after May 2009, specializing in attacks using indirect fire and Explosively Formed Penetrators (EFPs). [39]

 Most recorded attacks by the PDB have been carried out using conventional weaponry such as small arms, mortars, and simple rockets. 

A senior Iraqi intelligence official in July 2011 told officials at the White House and the Pentagon that "in order to avoid antagonizing Washington, Sadr had ordered the Brigade to limit its attacks to 'hard targets' - installations and armored vehicles - to minimize the likelihood of U.S. casualties." [40]

Political Activities

The PDB is not overtly political. However, Sadr and his followers supported the election of Nouri al-Maliki as Prime Minister of Iraq in April 2006. It is believed that "Maliki relies on Sadr, who controls a large bloc of parliamentary seats, for political support and can ill afford to alienate his religious and conservative base. [41] Sadr has some vested interest in seeing Maliki succeed because of the protection and legitimacy he provides, and the "alternatives could be more problematic." [42] 

On April 9, 2007, Sadr organized a rally protesting American presence in Iraq. Though Sadr did not attend, he issued a statement which was read to the tens of thousands who filled the streets of Najaf. There was no violence reported on the day associated with the rally. Experts believed Sadr's intention was to show the extent of his support in the community. [43]

During the election in March 2010, Sadr's bloc won 40 out of 325 seats in the Iraqi parliament/ [44]

During the Arab Spring of February 2011, Sadr kept his followers from joining in anti-government protests. [45]

Major Attacks

In June 2011, PDB claimed responsibility for 52 attacks against U.S. forces. [46] 

On June 28th, 2011, PDB issued a statement claiming responsibility for 10 mortar and Katyusha rocket attacks against U.S. bases around the country during 2011. It also claimed responsibility for an unknown number of attacks on U.S. military convoys, causing an unknown number of casualties. [47]


  1. June 28, 2012: PDB issued a statement claiming responsibility for 10 mortar and Katyusha rocket attacks against U.S. bases around the country. It also claimed responsibility for an unknown number of attacks on U.S. military convoys, saying that the attacks had "killed and wounded a number of U.S. soldiers." (Unknown).[48]

Relationships with Other Groups

The PDB is one of several "Special Groups." Special Groups is a U.S. military term or designation assigned to Iran-backed Shiite militias operating primarily in and around Sadr City and Baghdad. Special Groups are generally considered factions within the Madhi Army that broke away during the 2007 and 2008 infighting. [49] Little is known about the Iraq Special Groups; however, Kataib Hizb Allah (KH), Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AHH) and the Promised Day Brigade (PDB) are the most prominent. [50]

U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Bergner, spokesman for Multi-National Force-Iraq, described the groups in 2007 as cellular in structure and independently operational. "Their cellular structure and interactions create a complex web of relationships, which have increasingly been fueled by external influences," said Bergner. [51]

The groups are connected via Iran and religious alliances. Many purported members of PDB appear to collaborate with KH and AAH organizers to participate in small numbers of attacks on U.S. forces, but little else is known. "Cross-pollination among these groups does occur and makes the exercise of performing a neat classification of them more difficult." [52]

Although the PDB was originally designed to exclusively attack coalition forces, the 2008 engagement in Sadr City with Special Group Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH) highlighted deep divisions among the Shiite militias. This is most likely because the "AAH was built around one of al-Sadr’s key rivals, a protégé of al-Sadr’s father called Qais al-Khazali who had consistently opposed al-Sadr’s cease-fire agreements with the U.S. and Iraqi militaries." [53] However, both Sadr and Maliki are attempting to forge stronger ties with Qais al-Khazali, primarily because he has become more influential in mainstream politics. [54]

The PDB's relationship with KH is less clear, although there seems to be little overt conflict. KH was founded in 2007. It is a compact and highly trained organization of less than 400 individuals that are directly under IRGC Qods Force control. Its leader is Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who was born in Basra and has long supported Iranian-backed Shiite proxies in Iraq. [55]

Community Relationships

As of 2006, much of the Iraqi Shiite population did not favor disbanding the Shiite militias and Special Groups. Many Iraqis saw the Special Groups as protectors who played a crucial security role and provided basic services. [56] More recently, the general sentiment has changed substantively. Special Groups are no longer needed to prevent anarchy. In fact, the Iranian-backed Shiite militias often create more animosity among Iraqis. "The militarization of Iranian influence is often counterproductive in Iraq, reinforcing Iraqis’ generally negative attitudes toward Iran."  [57]


References

  1. ^ http://www.defense.gov/News/NewsArticle.aspx?ID=60632
  2. ^ Alissa Rubin, "Cleric Switches Tactics to Meet Changes in Iraq," http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/19/world/middleeast/19sadr.html?ref=mahdi_army (July 19, 2007)
  3. ^ Rashad, Fadil, "Iraq Shi"i Leader's "Determined" to Extend Al-Mahdi Army Freeze," Al-Hayat via BBC Monitoring Middle East, February 12, 2008, LexisNexis Academic
  4. ^ Rashad, Fadil, "Iraq Shi"i Leader's "Determined" to Extend Al-Mahdi Army Freeze," Al-Hayat via BBC Monitoring Middle East, February 12, 2008, LexisNexis Academic
  5. ^ Gareth Porter, "What is Sadr's Game on Future U.S. Troop Presence?" http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=56486 (July 14, 2011)
  6. ^ Lionel Beehner, "Maliki and Sadr: An Alliance of Convenience," http://www.cfr.org/iraq/maliki-sadr-alliance-convenience/p11787 (October 24, 2006)
  7. ^ Bill Roggio, "Iranian-backed Shia terror group remains a threat in Iraq: General Ordierno," http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2010/07/iranianbacked_shia_t_1.php (July 13, 2010)
  8. ^ Gareth Porter, "What is Sadr's Game on Future U.S. Troop Presence?" http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=56486 (July 14, 2011)
  9. ^ Gareth Porter, "What is Sadr's Game on Future U.S. Troop Presence?" http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=56486 (July 14, 2011)
  10. ^ Gareth Porter, "What is Sadr's Game on Future U.S. Troop Presence?" http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=56486 (July 14, 2011)
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  13. ^ Gareth Porter, "What is Sadr's Game on Future U.S. Troop Presence?" http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=56486 (July 14, 2011)
  14. ^ Bill Roggio, "US military killed Mahdi Army commander Arkan Hasnawi in May 3 strike," http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2008/05/us_military_killed_m.php (May 21, 2008)
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  16. ^ Rahimi, Babak, "The Return of Moqtada al-Sadr and the Revival of the Mahdi Army, "CTC Sentinel, Vol. 3, No. 6 (June 2010)}

    Despite Sadr's followers often referring to him as “leader sayyid," he does not possess the formal qualifications required to issue fatawa.  Although the Iranian Revolution has been known to swiftly transform "aspiring clerics to the ranks of ayatollahs once they have proven their credentials as defenders of the interests of the Islamic republic," Sadr has not yet undergone this transformation. Consequently, the PDB see Sadr as their spiritual leader albeit he enjoys no proper leadership status within traditional or indeed Khomeinist Shiism. {{Reidar Visser, "Religious Allegiances Among Pro-Iranian Special Groups in Iraq," http://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/religious-allegiances-among-pro-iranian-special-groups-in-iraq (September 26, 2011)

  17. ^ Michael Knights, "The Evolution of Iran's Special Groups in Iraq," http://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/the-evolution-of-iran%E2%80%99s-special-groups-in-iraq (Nov 1, 2010)
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  45. ^ Tim Arango, "Radical Cleric's Path, Now at a Crossroads, Could Turn Iraq, Too," http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/22/world/middleeast/sadrs-path-could-determine-how-iraq-turns.html?pagewanted=all (September 21, 2011)
  46. ^ Gareth Porter, "What is Sadr's Game on Future U.S. Troop Presence?" http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=56486 (July 14, 2011)
  47. ^ Gareth Porter, "What is Sadr's Game on Future U.S. Troop Presence?" http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=56486 (July 14, 2011)
  48. ^ Gareth Porter, "What is Sadr's Game on Future U.S. Troop Presence?" http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=56486 (July 14, 2011)
  49. ^ Bill Roggio, "US breaks up Mahdi Army 'Promised Day Brigade' cell in Al Kut," http://longwarjournal.org/archives/2009/04/us_breaks_up_mahdi_a.php (April 26, 2009)
  50. ^ Reidar Visser, "Religious Allegiances among Pro-Iranian Special Groups in Iraq," http://ctc.usma.edu/posts/religious-allegiances-among-pro-iranian-special-groups-in-iraq (September 26, 2011)
  51. ^ Sky Laron, "MNF-1 spokesman details secret cell involvement in Iraq," http://www.usf-iraq.com/?option=com_content&task=view&id=12653&Itemid=128 (July 2, 2007)
  52. ^ Reidar Visser, "Religious Allegiances Among Pro-Iranian Special Groups in Iraq," http://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/religious-allegiances-among-pro-iranian-special-groups-in-iraq (September 26, 2011)
  53. ^ Michael Knights, "The Evolution of Iran's Special Groups," http://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/the-evolution-of-iran%E2%80%99s-special-groups-in-iraq (November 1, 2010)
  54. ^ Michael Knights, "The Evolution of Iran's Special Groups," http://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/the-evolution-of-iran%E2%80%99s-special-groups-in-iraq (November 1, 2010)
  55. ^ Michael Knights, "The Evolution of Iran's Special Groups," http://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/the-evolution-of-iran%E2%80%99s-special-groups-in-iraq (November 1, 2010)
  56. ^ Lionel Beehner, "Maliki and Sadr: An Alliance of Convenience," http://www.cfr.org/iraq/maliki-sadr-alliance-convenience/p11787 (October 24, 2006)
  57. ^ Michael Knights, "The Evolution of Iran's Special Groups," http://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/the-evolution-of-iran%E2%80%99s-special-groups-in-iraq (November 1, 2010)

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