Feb. 13, 2007 — -- While members of the U.S. House of Representatives take turns weighing in on President Bush's planned troop surge in Iraq, the focus in Iraq is not on the arrival of more U.S. troops, but the departure of one of the country's most powerful men, Moqtada al Sadr and members of his army.
According to senior military officials, al Sadr left Baghdad two to three weeks ago and fled to Tehran, Iran, where he has family.
Al Sadr commands the Mahdi army, one of the most formidable insurgent militias in Iraq, and his move coincides with the announced U.S. troop surge in Baghdad.
Sources believe al Sadr is worried about an increase of 20,000 U.S. troops in the Iraqi capital. One official told ABC News' Martha Raddatz, "He is scared he will get a JDAM [bomb] dropped on his house."
Sources say some of the Mahdi army leadership went with al Sadr.
Though he is gone for now, many believe al Sadr is not gone for good. In Tehran he is trying to keep the Mahdi militia together.
In recent months, al Sadr has come to the political table to force change rather than use military force to have an impact. Sources say an even more extreme faction within his militia isn't pleased with this turn of events and is trying to force the cleric to respond to recent Sunni attacks with more violence.
U.S. officials say they are going to watch those members of the Mahdi army left behind in Baghdad. Sources say two scenarios are possible: Either al Sadr will be driven further into extremist mode or he will continue going forward with the political process.