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Al-Sadr To Call For Disarming Of His Militia

From the Wall Street Journal:

Radical Iraq Cleric in Retreat

Sadr, Power Waning, Plans Moderate Course; Retaining Militia

By GINA CHON
August 5, 2008; Page A1

BAGHDAD — Anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr — long a thorn in the side of the U.S. military and Iraqi government — intends to disarm his once-dominant Mahdi Army militia and remake it as a social-services organization.

The transformation would represent a significant turnabout for a group that, as recently as earlier this year, was seen as one of the most destabilizing anti-American forces in Iraq. For much of the past several years, the Mahdi Army, headed by Mr. Sadr, a Shiite cleric, controlled sizable chunks of Baghdad and other cities. Its brand of pro-Shiite activism had the side effect of pitting Iraqis against each other, helping to stir worries of civil war.

Recently, however, the group has been hit by a largely successful Iraqi military crackdown against militia members operating as criminal gangs. At the same time, Mr. Sadr’s popular support is dwindling: Residents who once viewed the Mahdi Army as champions of the poor became alienated by what they saw as its thuggish behavior.

A new brochure, obtained by The Wall Street Journal and confirmed by Mr. Sadr’s chief spokesman, Sheik Salah al-Obeidi, states that the Mahdi Army will now be guided by Shiite spirituality instead of anti-American militancy. The group will focus on education, religion and social justice, according to the brochure, which is aimed at Mr. Sadr’s followers. The brochure also states that it “is not allowed to use arms at all.”

Posters have been put up in some areas of Baghdad saying a new direction for the Mahdi Army will be announced at this Friday’s prayers

Disarmament is far from certain. The group is ridden with internal strife, and Mr. Sadr now is believed to spend significant time outside the country, in Iran.

U.S. military spokesman Col. Jerry O’Hara said the military welcomed the news, but said “the proof is always in the actions and not just the words, so we’ll take a wait-and-see approach.” …

Yes, we have heard this song before. But somehow this seems more believable.

And proof of that would be how the rest of our media have so far carefully avoided mentioning this development.

(Thanks to NotSoYoungJim for the heads up.)

This article was posted by Steve on Wednesday, August 6th, 2008. Comments are currently closed.

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