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Mahdi Army - 2008 - Freeze on JAM Activity

In June 2008, Sadr announced his intention to prioritize his organization's cultural, religious and socio-economic outreach while reducing its emphasis on political and militant activity, likely in an effort to regain popular support. This effort was relatively successful, enabling the Sadrists to gain sufficient representation in Shia-dominated provinces to be a key partner in ruling coalitions in most southern provincial councils.

"The freeze on the activities of the al-Mahdi army...shall continue to be in effect for an indefinite period of time," said Muqtada al-Sadr in a hand-written statement released on 26 August 2008. In the statement Sadr emphasized the importance of obeying the program of "Al-Muhmahidoon," the newly-established cultural and social organization formed from the majority of Jaysh al-Mahdi (JAM) followers. He also called for weekly protests against the "occupation" during the month of Ramadan.

A formal extension of the year-old freeze on JAM activity was widely expected and was consistent with recent Sadr statements on the transformation of JAM into an unarmed social movement dedicated to the "jihad of thought." Sadrist preachers are adjusting their messages accordingly. In his 29 August 2008 sermon in Kufa, Sadrist Sheikh Abdel Hadi al-Mahmidawi warned of the corrupting influence of "entertainment and leisure programs and soap operas" broadcast during Ramadan.

A 30 August 2008 article in Al-Sharq al-Awsat illustrated the challenge Sadrist leaders faced in convincing their wayward flock to abandon their guns in favor of intellectual resistance. The article quoted Adnan Habib, 22, as saying "Although I would prefer to fight, I will follow the orders of Muqtada al-Sadr." Mohammed Mousi, 18, added "I prefer resistance with weapons, because it is the only thing I can do."

On 14 September 2008, Sadrist Trend Provincial Council (PC) member Ahmed Hasan E'barah delivered a statement to the PRT from Muqtada al-Sadr ordering his followers to turn away from armed struggle and enter his new program of Al Momahadoon (The Prepared Ones). Al Momahadoon is a program of study and behavior designed to create a better individual and a better Muslim society. The statement renounces violence and disavows anyone who continues to pursue violent actions from the Sadr movement. On September 21, E'barah, fellow Sadrist PC member Siraj Anwar Ali, and Provincial Council Chairman Mohammad Hassan Jabbar met in Jabbar's office with PRT Political and Governance Officers to discuss Sadr's statement. The Sadr spokesmen stated unequivocally that the head of the Sadr Office in Al Kut ordered them to ensure that the document reached senior American officials in Iraq. E'barah made specific mention of highlighted areas of the text which repeatedly state that Sadr and Sadrists would not support violent actions and would not allow anyone who did to belong to the Sadr movement.

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