Moqtada al-Sadr has signed an agreement with his Shi'ite rivals in southern Iraq to end all hostilities between them. The Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, which recently signed a peace agreement with the central government and the Kurds, has now managed to put Sadr into its coalition, ending years of conflict between the Mahdi Army and the Badr Brigades:
Two of Iraq's most influential Shia leaders have signed a deal to try to end violence between their groups.
Radical cleric Moqtada Sadr and Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, head of the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq, have been locked in a bitter dispute for months.
The leaders have agreed to try to end further bloodshed, foster a spirit of good will and form joint committees throughout the country.
The SIIC stated that the various factions of Iraq had to find ways to come together to "enhance and preserve Iraqi unity." Sadr's spokesman said that the pact would become a "commitment of honor." Both sides want to find ways to end the squabbling that has existed between the groups since liberation, but which have recently created a rising amount of violence.
Sadr appears to have capitulated to the SIIC in this instance. Over the summer, his Mahdi Army started a gunfight with the Badr Brigades during a Shi'ite holiday and pilgrimage, killing dozens. Shortly afterwards, Hakim outmaneuvered Sadr with an alliance between the SIIC, Nouri al-Maliki, and the Kurds. The alliance strengthened Maliki after Sadr withdrew his deputies from Maliki's ruling coalition, leaving Sadr more isolated than ever before, even among Shi'ites.
Sadr is a survivor, as we have learned over the last four years. He knows when to hold 'em, and he knows when to fold 'em. It looks like he's made another pragmatic calculation, but even Sadr can't hide the fact that he's taking his faction ever backwards. At one time, he played kingmaker to Maliki. Now he has to fight for scraps from Hakim's table and only has indirect influence over the government. Surviving may be a form of success, but Sadr could have played his hand so much more effectively -- and it won't be long before his underlings start to realize it, if they haven't already.