|Qandeel: The government wants the arms to |
be in the hands of its forces only
"There have been serious violations to our people's rights, their families have been insulted by government forces over and over, I do not know how long they will be able to tolerate that," he said.
"Definitely our people will not stand helpless at the aggression against their honour and beliefs."
Mohamad al-Himaidawi, a Shia MP from al-Fadila Party, agrees that there is an ongoing campaign to weaken the Sadr movement in the south.
"This is not the first time the ruling parties have tried something like this. It happened before with our party, al-Fadila," he said.
"I think the reason behind that is to prepare for coming crucial decisions. They know that the Sadr movement would not agree if they continue to have their say over Iraqi issues."
Iraqi government officials were not available for comment, but Saad Qandeel, member of the ISC political bureau in Baghdad, rejected outright all accusations that his party is behind the increased violence in the south.
He said: "The campaign of arrests is being carried out by the government, not by us, and this government is a national unity government consisting of many parties. So why are the Sadrists accusing us only?
"The government has been carrying out a military campaign to impose law and order. We think the arrests against the Mahdi Army in southern Iraq falls under this criterion. The government wants the arms to be in the hands of government forces only."
The campaign against the Mahdi Army has been causing civil strife and stirring deep-seated rivalries in southern Iraq.
The al-Sadr and al-Hakim families have been locked in a decades-old dispute over leadership of the Hawza in Najaf, the highest Shia authority in the world.
Millions visit the Hawza-controlled shrines in Iraq and their contributions and donations are believed to reach tens of millions of dollars every year.
Al-Sadr claims that the Hawza has been under the control of Iran-based clerics for centuries and it was time an Iraqi Arab institution took responsibility.
However, many Shia scholars reject that approach, saying competence should be the criteria and not nationality or race.