FoxNews is reporting that “Iraqi Cleric Muqtada al-Sadr Suspends Mahdi Army Activities“:
Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has ordered a six-month suspension of activities by his Mahdi Army militia in order to reorganize the force, and it will no longer attack U.S. and coalition troops, aides said Wednesday.
The aide, Sheik Hazim al-Araji, said on Iraqi state television that the goal was to “rehabilitate” the organization, which has reportedly broken into factions, some of which the U.S. maintains are trained and supplied by Iran.
I initially found the story on FreeRepublic and the first comment to the post immediately tempered the story: “In other words, please stop shooting at us while we reload.” This is also reflected in al-Araji’s words that they wish to “rehabilitate” the organization. More:
The order was issued after two days of bloody clashes in the Shiite holy city of Karbala that claimed at least 52 lives. Iraqi security officials blamed Mahdi militiamen for attacking mosque guards, some of whom are linked to the rival Badr Brigade militia. [details on this clash can be found at the FoxNews story].
A pro-Sadr member of the Karbala city council, Ahmed al-Husseini, blamed the violence on pro-Iranian groups among security forces that guard the Karbala shrines.
This could be further indicative of the ongoing fracture of the Mahdi, where it appears that there may be some elements who don’t appreciate Iran’s influence in the organization. It may also mean that Sadr has lost control and is attempting to regain it. If so, the next few months will tell, my bet is that his force is fractured enough and Iran has built enough influence therein that attacks won’t really subside. I suppose it’s possible that Sadr has lost enough control and may be willing to turn to peacefully participating in the political process as another big insurgent leader appears willing to do but I doubt it. There is more good news in the article, however:
Meanwhile, the U.S. military said U.S. and Iraqi special forces had captured a suspected commander of a rogue element of the Mahdi Army that targets Iraqi citizens for kidnappings and killings.
The man, whose name was not released, was picked up on Monday in Baghdad and is also suspected of attacks targeting Iraqi and U.S. forces, the military said in a statement.
With respect to Iran’s involvement in Iraq and Mahdi, Jeff Emanuel has a pretty good summary (found off a HotAir post, Iranian funded Hezbollah is also involved) including information about the Quds Force and the Iranian shelling of Iraq’s Kurdish areas in the northeast.