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August 29, 2007
Al-Sadr Proclaims a 6 Month Suspension of Military Operations
I'm not exactly sure what radical anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has in mind by suspending military operations for 6 months but it could very well be that he has lost considerable control over his Mahdi Militia as factions loyal to Iran carry out attacks against Americans and kill innocent Sunnis:
"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. The announcement comes a day after fierce clashes broke out in Karbala between al-Sadr's group and the Badr Organization. The two militias have been jostling for control of the city for months.
In Najaf, al-Sadr's spokesman said the order also means the Mahdi Army will no longer launch attacks against U.S. and other coalition forces. "It also includes suspending the taking up of arms against occupiers as well as others," Ahmed al-Shaibani told reporters.
It could also be that al-Sadr wishes to expose those rogue elements of his militia to US attacks, eliminating rival commanders who have sprung up during the surge. It is believed that al-Sadr's inability to communicate effectively with his forces over these last few months due to his constant moving to avoid capture or death at the hands of the US military contributed to the break up of his militia.
Is this good news? Not really. It is believed by the military that they eventually must confront the Mahdi in order to bring real security to Iraq. This pause does not signify peace. Only the end of round one.