Huge news out of Iraq today. Moqtada al Sadr–head of the Sadrist movement and the Mahdi Army–has renewed the ceasefire (hudna in Arabic) that he put in place six months ago.
The cleric, whose forces have frequently clashed with the Americans in the past, had sealed envelopes distributed to Friday preachers in Shia mosques with instructions that they should be opened and read at Friday prayers.
In the statement read out from the pulpits Mr Sadr ordered the Mehdi Army to continue suspending all military activities for a further six months until August.
The aim, it said, was to give the movement an opportunity to retrieve what it called its ideological position.
What this ceassation of hostilities allows is for Sadr to prune the movement of what he calls rogue elements. He is by far the cagiest politician in Iraq and while this move may be seen (and probably will on the right perhaps not without some reason) as a fear of taking on the US Army in surge mode and therefore as weakened, Sadr knows that the real power lies in the street not with the Parliament. He can bide his time and wait out until the Americans start the inevitable draw down of forces.