Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has ordered a six-month suspension of activities by his Mahdi Army militia in order to reorganize the force, an aide said Wednesday.
The aide, Sheik Hazim al-Araji, said on Iraqi state television that the goal was to "rehabilitate" the organization, which has reportedly broken into factions, some of which the U.S. maintains are trained and supplied by Iran.
"We declare the freezing of the Mahdi Army without exception in order to rehabilitate it in a way that will safeguard its ideological image within a maximum period of six months starting from the day this statement is issued," al-Araji said, reading from a statement by al-Sadr.
We know with the recent success being seen in Iraq that the Democratically controlled Congress and Senate cannot stand in the way of our continued progress and that no major shift in strategy will occur after the September testimony by General Petraeus and the president's report is given.
This latest move by al-Sadr will give the al-Maliki government the space needed to continue along the lines of political reconciliation that he has finally started.
From Captain's Quarters:
The final straw appears to have been a fight in Karbala that left 52 dead during a Shi'ite pilgrimage. Authorities had prepared for attacks by Sunni terrorists, but instead the big clash came from the Shi'ites, instigated from Sadr's goon squads. The reference to safeguarding its "ideological image" undoubtedly comes from the mind-bogglingly stupid decision to attack the Badr factions during a pilgrimage in one of Shi'a Islam's most holy cities -- exactly the kind of dumb political thinking that has become emblematic of Sadr himself.
A six-month vacation from Sadr will be exactly what the Iraqi government needs to keep the momentum towards reform. Sadr would have been a major stumbling block to the new agreements announced on Sunday, but his political position has eroded badly since the start of the surge. His flight to Iran undermined his credibility, and Maliki's survival without Sadr's ministers called Sadr's bluff.
So far, the signs look good for stability and progress in Iraq. If the situation continues to improve, the six month break will likely turn into a permanent end to the Mahdis and their influence on Iraq.
Excellent analysis as usual from Ed.
More from Wapo. More from NYT.
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