The headline: Sadr Shifts Strategy in Iraq.
Hit by a government military crackdown and dwindling popular support, anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is planning a major shift in strategy: re-branding and disarming the Mahdi Army by turning the militia into a civic and social service organization, a move that could further enhance the stability of Iraq.
In an introductory brochure obtained by the Journal and confirmed by Sheikh Salah al-Obeidi, Mr. Sadr's chief spokesman, the Mahdi Army will now be guided by Shiites spirituality as opposed to anti-American militancy. It will even get a new philosophy or guiding principle: al-Mumahidoon, meaning his supporters will be the foot soldiers of the Shiites messiah, Imam Muhammad al-Mahdi, who Shiites Muslims believe will return to rid the world of evil and injustice.I have to wonder who his marketing consultant is; they even printed brochures.
Sadr officials say the transition is partly in reaction to a time horizon for withdrawal of U.S. combat troops that is expected to be part of the long-term security deal between the U.S. and Iraq, which is close to being hammered out after a few months of sometimes contentious negotiations. The Mahdi Army had long stated that its principal goal was withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and since talks of a time-table have emerged, the movement has tried to find itself a second life by transforming itself into a social, cultural and religious organization focused on helping Iraqi society through peaceful means, according to Mr. Obeidi.
However, Mr. Obeidi said that Mr. Sadr will continue to direct small, special cells for limited military operations against U.S. forces but more details about these cells and how they can be distinguished from rogue Mahdi Army members who are disobeying a cease-fire order by Mr. Sadr will be publicized at a future date.All options will remain on the table, in PotomacLand speak.