Just days after reports that Moqtada Al-Sadr has fled Iraq for Iran, it appears that he is ordering his followers to do the same. Reuters is now reporting that Al-Sadr has ordered the leaders of his Mehdi Army to leave Iraq. It now appears that Al-Sadr has choosen to protect his political positions rather than fight and risk loosing everything. It may still be too early to make this call, but I will go out on a limb and say that the Mehdi Army – at least the version as we now know it – is no more.
This could very well be the first in a series of events that will put Iraq on the path to unity, peace, and stability. The same process (known as the “domino effect”) that started this current mess could push it towards a quick conclusion. Last February, followers of Al-Qaeda bombed the Golden Dome Mosque is Samarah, and put Iraq one giant step closer to civil war. The bombing led to the creation of malitias and the execution of revenge attacks. What began with one car bomb quickly spiraled out of control.
Now, there is the opportunity for this process to work in reverse. If the Mehdi army turely is gone, and with it the many killings and bombings that it carried out, then it is quite possible that people on the other side of the battle will feel safer, causing more of them to leave their positions in militias and return to their normal lives. The end result is a cycle of decreasing violence. As one militia breaks up, people on the other side feel safer, and the process repeats itself.