Is Muqtada al-Sadr Giving Up?

Rick Moran
If he has, it may be the most significant development of all in the recent string of successes being enjoyed by the coalition and the Iraqi government.

Al-Sadr is actually considering extending the cease fire his militia has been following since last August:

Sadr, who led uprisings against U.S. troops in 2004 and whose militia were later described by U.S. commanders as their greatest threat, surprised both Iraqis and U.S. forces when he ordered the initial six-month freeze on his militia in August.

Washington says the freeze is one of the factors that has led to a decline in violence across Iraq, although it has continued to pursue what it describes as "rogue" Mehdi Army units that have not laid down arms.

The son of a revered Shi'ite cleric slain under Saddam Hussein, Sadr has wide influence in the Shi'ite south and parts of Baghdad although he does not himself hold high clerical rank.

He has recently begun taking advanced Islamic studies in the religious learning centre of Najaf in a bid to climb the ranks of the Shi'ite religious hierarchy and increase his influence whilst also earning more respect from religious elders.

Although his political activity has been difficult to predict, those close to him suggest he is happy with the results of his ceasefire and may even seek to make it permanent, while emphasizing his organization's social role over its armed wing.


Sadr's political clout has been on the wane in the last year. His supporters walked out of the cabinet and later the legislature. To put it mildly, they weren't missed by Prime Minister Maliki's government.

After that political blunder, Mookie began to ratchet up the violence in the south, confronting his main rivals in the Badr Organization, as he sought to control the streets of Basra and other towns and villages.

That too backfired when the Iraqi Army surprisingly stepped in and placed themselves between the warring parties (while taking out some of the Mahdi's fighters). Shortly thereafter, al-Sadr made his cease fire announcement and things have been remarkably quiet in the south ever since.

It could very well be that Mookie sees a better future for himself as a religious/political leader than as the leader of an ill-trained militia. He still controls the health ministry - its patronage giving him a lot of sway among Shiites in Baghdad. And if he is seeking to emulate the success of Hezb'allah's Hassan Nasrallah who built a social services infrastructure along with training his militia, then it is possible he might take the political route to power thus making our boy's job a lot easier.

The potential for civil war was always greatest in the south where the two sides squared off in a deadly contest for control. But with much of the Badr Organization joining the police and army (another problem that must be dealt with separately) and the Mahdi's backing down, the prospects for a successful transition to peace in Iraq just jumped significantly.

If he has, it may be the most significant development of all in the recent string of successes being enjoyed by the coalition and the Iraqi government.

Al-Sadr is actually considering extending the cease fire his militia has been following since last August:

Sadr, who led uprisings against U.S. troops in 2004 and whose militia were later described by U.S. commanders as their greatest threat, surprised both Iraqis and U.S. forces when he ordered the initial six-month freeze on his militia in August.

Washington says the freeze is one of the factors that has led to a decline in violence across Iraq, although it has continued to pursue what it describes as "rogue" Mehdi Army units that have not laid down arms.

The son of a revered Shi'ite cleric slain under Saddam Hussein, Sadr has wide influence in the Shi'ite south and parts of Baghdad although he does not himself hold high clerical rank.

He has recently begun taking advanced Islamic studies in the religious learning centre of Najaf in a bid to climb the ranks of the Shi'ite religious hierarchy and increase his influence whilst also earning more respect from religious elders.

Although his political activity has been difficult to predict, those close to him suggest he is happy with the results of his ceasefire and may even seek to make it permanent, while emphasizing his organization's social role over its armed wing.


Sadr's political clout has been on the wane in the last year. His supporters walked out of the cabinet and later the legislature. To put it mildly, they weren't missed by Prime Minister Maliki's government.

After that political blunder, Mookie began to ratchet up the violence in the south, confronting his main rivals in the Badr Organization, as he sought to control the streets of Basra and other towns and villages.

That too backfired when the Iraqi Army surprisingly stepped in and placed themselves between the warring parties (while taking out some of the Mahdi's fighters). Shortly thereafter, al-Sadr made his cease fire announcement and things have been remarkably quiet in the south ever since.

It could very well be that Mookie sees a better future for himself as a religious/political leader than as the leader of an ill-trained militia. He still controls the health ministry - its patronage giving him a lot of sway among Shiites in Baghdad. And if he is seeking to emulate the success of Hezb'allah's Hassan Nasrallah who built a social services infrastructure along with training his militia, then it is possible he might take the political route to power thus making our boy's job a lot easier.

The potential for civil war was always greatest in the south where the two sides squared off in a deadly contest for control. But with much of the Badr Organization joining the police and army (another problem that must be dealt with separately) and the Mahdi's backing down, the prospects for a successful transition to peace in Iraq just jumped significantly.