Sadr Offers to Trade Militia for Set Timetable

Already disbanding Mahdi Army, cleric wants firm US deal
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 8, 2008 1:13 PM CDT
A man pushes a cart past a poster of anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in Baghdad's Shiite enclave of Sadr City in this July 3 file photo.    (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr ordered most of his Mahdi Army to disband today, and offered to completely dismantle it once the US agrees to a withdrawal timetable, Time reports. “The main reason for the armed resistance is the American military presence,” said a Sadr spokesman. “If the American military begins to withdrawal, there will be no need for these armed groups.”

If the offer is genuine, it would be difficult for the US to refuse; past Mahdi ceasefires have coincided with big drops in violence. In a statement read at mosques today, Sadr says remaining cells will be “small and limited,” striking only under the cleric’s direct orders, the AP adds. He’s also turned a portion of the force into a social and religious group.