Sources tell Reuters that "powerful Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr is expected to extend a six-month ceasefire by his Mehdi Army militia."
This is great news. Moqtada al-Sadr's peacefire has been one of the reasons the surge has had such military success.
If he doesn't extend the ceasefire
If Sadr decides to end the ceasefire, contrary to Reuter's anonymous source's beliefs, the effect could be devastating.
Shiite on Shiite violence would flare up, as would Shiite on Sunni. New chaos would only slow the already snail-paced political action.
But why would Sadr want to reextend the truce?
A couple of reasons:
1. The U.S.
The United States has kept up pressure militarily and politically to hold Sadr down. The surge was one of the key reasons the Shiite cleric called for the ceasefire; once it began winding down, Sadr could have expected to be able to end his truce and not have to worry about too many Americans. There was a change: Defense secretary Robert Gates came out last month and said troop withdrawals could stop in the spring. This has probably given Sadr a lot to think about.
2. The Iraqi government
The Iraqi government has also kept up the pressure on al Sadr.
3. The Iraqi people
Let’s give the guy the benefit of the doubt: he’s looking for a peaceful solution without having too many casualties.
This, in my opinion, is the most interesting force possibly pushing al-Sadr to continue the cessation of hostilities. The U.S. and Iran have been having talks over Iraq for quite a while now, but no news has made it out of the talks. Have the two countries struck some sort of a deal? Even if they haven’t, is Iran looking to make a deal and holding al-Sadr back so one can be made?