Moqtada al-Sadr has announced that if the US does not leave by December, the Mahdi Army will not be mobilized to drive it out, but instead an organization called the Promised Day Brigade will.
Sadr said his decision about the Mahdi Army came after a recent incident in the Amine district of eastern Baghdad where a militiaman in a local dispute had called in gunmen who had shot and killed one resident and wounded another.We can assume that this Promised Day Brigade is more disciplined and under more reliable control than the larger Mahdi Army.
"I am innocent of all the abuses that people commit in my name," Sadr said.
A problem the United States has in Iraq is that after accepting Iraq's demand that it commit to leave, the US could not credibly offer to stay for any limited period. If the US offers to keep 10,000 troops in Iraq for, say, three more years, it will be obvious to all involved that the US intends to pressure Iraq's government three years from now to extend the stay further.
If Iraq wants the US to leave ever, it has to maintain its position that the US must leave this year.
It is not clear that Iraq's politicians will be able to maintain that position. The United States is applying the most pressure it can apply - which probably means favors, threats and cargo-plane loads of US hundred dollar bills.
But whether the US stays or not, US influence is on the decline and will prove costly not only in terms of hundred dollar bills, but also in terms of lives of US soldiers.