Barely three months after the transfer of sovereignty to an Iraqi interim government, is the macabre mayhem triggered in August, by the Hawza Movement, led by the young, radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr still a threat? Though battered, his militia, the Mahdi army – Mahdi is the Messiah in Shi’a theology – is still armed and ﬁghting. Efforts to draw it into peaceful, institutional politics have so far been futile.
Militia leaders have declined to decommission their weapons on various grounds: this is an army of twelfth, or hidden, Imam and it is only he who can dissolve it. They also argue that this is not an army, rather the militiamen are volunteers using their own personal ﬁrearms (including rocket launchers and mortars!); or that it is purely a self-defence force. Unless decommissioning is achieved, fresh ﬁghting is to be expected anytime, anywhere.