“Out of my desire to complete Iraq’s independence and to finish the withdrawal of the occupation forces from our holy lands, I am obliged to halt military operations of the honest Iraqi resistance until the withdrawal of the occupation forces is complete,” al-Sadr said in the statement, posted late Saturday. Sadrist lawmaker Mushraq Naji confirmed the statement on Sunday.

However, al-Sadr warned that “if the withdrawal doesn’t happen … the military operations will be resumed in a new and tougher way.”

The statement followed last week’s notice by U.S. officials in Baghdad, announcing the start of the withdrawal.