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April 07, 2008

Sadr: I Will Disband My Asshole Army, If Shiite Clerics Tell Me To

Hmm... Seems like a decent face-saving way to do it, a nice escape hatch allowing him to comply with government orders while claiming he's just following religious edicts.

But check, alas, who he's going to ask for a ruling.

Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr will consult senior religious leaders and disband his Mehdi Army militia if they instruct him to, a senior aide said on Monday.

The surprise announcement came on the day Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, in a television interview, ordered the Mehdi Army to disband or Sadr's followers would be excluded from Iraqi political life.

It was the first time Sadr has offered to disband the Mehdi Army, whose black-masked fighters are principle actors in Iraq's five-year-old war and the main foes of U.S. and Iraqi forces in a recent upsurge in fighting.

Senior aide Hassan Zargani said Sadr would seek rulings from Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's most senior Shi'ite cleric, as well as senior Shi'ite clergy based in Iran, on whether to dissolve the Mehdi Army, and would obey their orders.

That effectively puts the militia's fate in the hands of the reclusive Sistani, 77, a cleric revered by all of Iraq's Shi'ite factions and whose edicts carry the force of Islamic law, but who almost never intervenes in politics.

"Moqtada al-Sadr has ordered his offices in Najaf and Qom to form a delegation to visit Sistani in Najaf and (other leaders) in Qom to discuss disbanding the Mehdi Army," Zargani said.

"If they order the Mehdi Army to disband, Moqtada al-Sadr and the Sadr movement will obey the orders of the religious leaders," he told Reuters. Najaf in Iraq, where Sistani is based, and Qom in Iran are the main seats of Shi'ite authority.


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posted by Ace at 11:10 AM

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