In the latest public announcement of Sadr’s call to shift the Mahdi Army, this piece from the Christian Science Monitor.
During Friday prayers in Sadr City, clerics read instructions from the young anti-American leader ordering his militiamen to join a new religious and cultural wing of the movement that he is calling the Momahidoun, or “those who pave the way.”
Part of the rationale is the following:
Mr. Mohmedawi adds that local residents have become less tolerant of the group’s insurgent activities and have begun reporting them to American and Iraqi security forces with increasing frequency.
A group dominated by a bunch of knucklehead youth–the so-called Sanctions Generation of Iraq–has hurt the movement’s standing.
This graf is the eye-popping (my emphasis):
The new social efforts will center on literacy programs and assistance to those in need, such as orphans or individuals who lost family members during Saddam Hussein’s rule. It will also offer general Islamic education, not just Shiite teachings, and ethics courses to counter the culture of killing that Mr. Obeidi says Al Qaeda brought to Iraq.
Courses and services will be available for everyone, regardless of their religious or political beliefs, say leading Sadrists.
If true that would make clear Sadr–as has long been argued by those in the know–is the only guy who can actually keep Iraq together and lead a broad-based anti-American, anti-Iranian Shia/Sunni Iraq. He is following the Hezbollah play book: lead with build up of your own formerly oppressed community (The Shia) but also make huge plays (via anti-occupational/defense of Islam) into Sunni territory via legitimacy gained by keeping close to the street and resisting the West.