Sadr to Forge Peaceful Corps from Shiite Army

Mahdi militants said to shift focus to civil service, stabilizing Iraq
By Sam Biddle,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 4, 2008 7:51 PM CDT
Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army is seeking to transform itself into a primarily non-militant organization.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – Anti-American Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is shifting his political clout away from militancy, and will disarm his Shiite Mahdi Army in favor of non-violent civic and social endeavors, the Wall Street Journal reports. Hoping to increase stability in Iraq, the organization will take on projects involving education, religion, and social justice.

A Mahdi Army spokesman clarified that the organization will retain a small cadre of military operatives, though they will remain bound to the current ceasefire. Talk of an American withdrawal timetable has led to “thinking that our work must focus on guiding and enlightening the people to serve Iraqi society,” he added.