In a new statement, Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr is calling for a nationwide campaign of disarmament. He says he wants his own followers to be the first to hand in their weapons to the government, saying that “everyone must obey the orders and not stand in the way.”
The plan was immediately endorsed by the Iraqi Interior Ministry, which had accused Sadr’s forces of hiding weapons and arms in civilian areas. They had been carrying out an investigation into Sadr’s forces.
That Sadr has such a large force of armed supporters makes him an unlikely advocate of a disarmament plan, though it also improves his ties with the outgoing Abadi government. Even there, Sadr is warning the plan can’t just target his bloc, and must also disarm other factions.
That’s a big point, as while Sadr’s bloc won the plurality in May’s vote, the second place party of Hadi Amiri is itself made up of multiple heavily armed militia factions’ political wings. In an attempt to try to form a coalition, they may feel keeping such forces armed risks talks spilling over into fighting.