Muqtada al-Sadr led an uprising with his militia from April to June of 2004.

This uprising was not widespread or long enough to be considered a true insurgency.  It lacked any revolutionary aim despite the rhetoric. The militia uprising occurred to prevent American forces from arresting al-Sadr. Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani intervened to end the uprising and encouraged al-Sadr to enter the new Iraqi provisional government.

Organization of Jaish al-Mahdi (JAM):
-Loose Confederation of religious militias and criminal gangs.
-Consists of lower-class Shia in slums of Baghdad (Sadr City), Basra, and other cities
-Many criminal elements of JAM do not follow al-Sadr’s orders.
-It’s numbers vary. It seems to have a hard-core membership of 5,000 fighters, with upwards of 40,000 active supporters.

In 2003, Sadr’s militiamen may have murdered Shia Imam Abdul Majid al-Khoei. This created tension between Sadr’s militia and more moderate Shia like Ayatollah Sistani. Sadr’s newspaper called for violence against the Coalition Provisional Authority in 2004. The CPA responded with an arrest warrent on April 5th 2004.

Al-Qaeda attacked Shia pilgrimages and shrines in March of 2004. al-Sadr used these attacks to claim he was the only true defender of the Shia people against American and Sunni enemies.

JAM Strategy
-Seized control of Najaf, Karbala, parts of Basra and Sadr City in Baghdad.
-Prevent CPA arrest of al-Sadr
-Hold control over sacred mosques in Najaf and Karbala. This discouraged a heavy US counterattack that would inflame Shia nation-wide

Flaws in JAM strategy
There was no grand strategy or purpose at all. The uprising was more of a reaction to the arrest threat. JAM could not lead a widespread Shia insurgency or uprising against the US.

US Counterattack
-The US laid seige to JAM positions
-American forces killed several hundred JAM militia between April to June.
-JAM forces deserted at high rates and could not sustain miltiary operations.
-The US divided JAM into isolated groups to prevent any central coordination
-Americans relied on moderate Shia to denounce al-Sadr’s uprising to prevent it from spreading.
-American Forces militarily defeat JAM forces by June of 2004.

In August, JAM members captured a major mosque in Najaf and began a standoff with Iraqi and American forces. Ayatollah Sistani negotiated the ceasefire and made JAM stand down. Al-Sadr formally created a political party and entered the Iraqi government as a politician. He influenced the Iraqi government to tolerate the JAM militia.

Al-Sadr appears to have lost control over elements of JAM following his entry into politics. Some may have viewed him as a sell-out, while others focused on crime.

Since 2004, JAM has not launched a coordinated attack against American or Iraqi government forces. JAM splinter cells and criminal elements fought coalition forces on isolated occasions.

JAM elements continued criminal activity – smuggling, kidnapping and ransoming, robbery, and mafia-like activities.

In 2006, JAM forces retaliated against Sunni civilians in response to al-Qaeda attacks on Shia civilians. This began ethnic cleansing of Sunnis from the Baghdad area.