U.S. Ambassador Christopher Hill said in a briefing with reporters last month that American forces were closely monitoring reports of the resurrection of the Mahdi Army but were not convinced that it was an imminent threat to Iraqis or U.S. forces.
"Iraqi security forces are the legitimate force authorized by the Iraq Constitution to secure and protect the population," Maj. Gen. Stephen Lanza, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Iraq, said in response to an inquiry. "We agree with Prime Minister Maliki that militias operating outside the constitution would be problematic and counterproductive."
During December religious ceremonies commemorating the martyrdom of the Shiite saint Imam Hussein, Promised Day and League of the Righteous organized competing processions, alarming bystanders who watched them taunt each other.
"It's hard to distinguish which is which," Hossein said. "There is some mixture, but there is also a lot of bad blood between them."