WASHINGTON, Aug. 25 (UPI) -- The Iraqi government will continue to work with Muqtada Sadr, the main force behind one of Iraq's largest Shiite militias, a top Iraqi official said Friday.
"We have to distinguish between the political line and the militia line," said Iraqi Deputy President Adil Abd al-Mahdi. "We ... are working a lot (with Sadr), and he is supporting the government. He has ministers in the government. And we are trying to distinguish between undisciplined groups from the disciplined ones. The government of (Prime Minister) Maliki is working very well on that issue."
Mahdi made his remarks Friday at the Pentagon, where he met with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
U.S. forces raided an office of the controversial cleric in Baghdad on Aug. 18 and found an improvised explosive device, mortars, rockets, loaded assault rifles, and zip ties.
The U.S. government in Iraq in 2004 announced an Iraqi arrest warrant for the politically ambitious Sadr, the son of a respected, slain Iraqi grand ayatollah, for the hacking death of another cleric in 2003 at a holy shrine in April 2003 in Najaf.
That announcement and the shut down of his newspapers sparked outrage on the part of his followers, many of them young, poor and uneducated and residents of a Sadr City, a rough neighborhood in Baghdad. Demonstrations turned into twin uprisings in Baghdad and Najaf in April and August 2004. While hundreds of Sadr's militia were killed in an uneven fight with U.S. forces, the battles established his reputation as an opposition force to the coalition.
But Sadr has risen on the tide of Iraqi politics, and he championed a Shiite ticket that gained a plurality of seats in Iraq's parliament in January 2006.
Sadr does not himself hold a political office but is one of the most powerful figures in Iraq, given his loyal forces, his well-attended sermons, and the services his offices perform throughout the country.
"Disorder is really caused not only by militias but by the insurgents, by the terrorists, by neighboring countries," said al-Mahdi.