Short of “Sadr dead, Mahdi Army disbands,” this is as close as you’re going to get to good news on this subject. Not a sufficient condition for increasing stability over the next six months but an absolutely necessary one:
Powerful Iraqi Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr is expected to extend a six-month ceasefire by his Mehdi Army militia, two senior officials in his movement confirmed for the first time on Thursday.
They said Sadr had issued a declaration to preachers to be read during midday prayers on Friday at mosques affiliated with the cleric, whose militia was blamed for fuelling sectarian violence with minority Sunni Muslims in 2006 and 2007…
“Sayed (Sadr) has distributed sealed envelopes to the imams of the mosques to be read tomorrow. They cannot be opened before tomorrow.”
Another senior official in Sadr’s movement, speaking from the holy Shi’ite city of Najaf where Sadr has offices, said the cleric would likely extend the truce for another six months.
Why’d he do it? His political power’s gradually waning so he shouldn’t want to wait and give the Iraqi government a chance to marginalize him. Possible explanations: (a) he hasn’t finished cleaning out his gutters yet; (b) he wants his big comeback to be as Khomeini-esque as possible; (c) he’s afraid for whatever reason that he’d be outgunned right now by SCIRI, possibly due to behind-the-scenes support they’re getting from the U.S. and/or Iran; or (d) he’s waiting for the presidential campaign to wear on a bit before making his move. If the new extension is for six months, he could call it off in August and launch a thousand headlines about Iraq collapsing again just in time for the election. Is Mookie shrewd enough to do that? No, but Iran surely is.
Update: Roggio wonders if some of Sadr’s aren’t going to decide that the ceasefire’s over for them even if it isn’t for him and break away.