Sadr Agrees to Leave Mosque

ABC (Australia) – Sadr agrees to end Najaf crisis

Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has agreed to end an uprising in the holy city of Najaf and leave a shrine from where his militia has fought United States forces for nearly two weeks, according to one of his spokesmen. “Yes, Sayyed Moqtada has agreed to the demands,” Sheikh Mahmoud al-Sudani told Reuters, without repeating in full the demands to which Sadr had agreed. The other demands, conveyed earlier by delegates meeting in Baghdad to select an interim national assembly, were for the radical cleric to disarm his Mehdi Army and join the country’s political process. Mr Sudani could not confirm that Sadr had sent a letter announcing his acceptance of the demands to the meeting.

Delegates at the event read out a letter from Sadr’s office in Baghdad saying he had agreed to back down and leave the Imam Ali Mosque in the southern city. Earlier, Iraq’s Defence Minister gave the militiamen hours to surrender, warning that troops were preparing for a major assault to “teach them a lesson they will never forget”.

Interesting. We’ll see how this pans out. This isn’t the first time Sadr has agreed to a cease fire . He has reneged on all previous such agreements.

(via Command Post)

And, at the risk of repeating myself, why is it that the press seems so much more solicitous towards the superstitions of other cultures than our own? Everything in Iraq is apparently “holy” to somebody. It’s not a word I’m accustomed to seeing in the Western media.

Update (1301): WaPo’s coverage is, to coin a phrase, more nuanced:

Sadr Signals He Will Accept Peace Plan

Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr signaled that he would accept pleas to dissolve his militia and vacate the sacred Imam Ali shrine in Najaf, but asked for time for further negotiations to work out details with Iraq’s interim government, according to a letter delivered Wednesday to delegates at the Iraqi national conference here.

News of Sadr’s latest offer came as U.S. forces continued to battle Sadr’s militiamen in neighborhoods around the shrine and the Iraqi defense minister warned that a “decisive battle” would commence if Sadr’s fighters did not surrender within hours. The offer came in a letter delivered by Jalil Shamari, a delegate to the national conference being held this week in Baghdad and a member of the Dawa party, a prominent Shiite Muslim organization that is not affiliated with Sadr. Shamari, who told reporters that he had received the letter from Sadr’s representatives in the Iraqi capital earlier in the day, said the offer was “an entrance to negotiation. A delegation from the government will go to Najaf or a delegation will come from Najaf to the government to start the negotiation, which we hope will end the crisis.”

Sadr has agreed several times in the past to peace deals with Iraqi officials only to later renege on them. But his latest offer was greeted warmly by the more than 1,000 delegates at the national conference here, where efforts to resolve the crisis in Najaf have dominated the talks that were intended to select a new interim national assembly. “Today Moqtada Sadr accepted the three items that are in the letter coming from your national conference with the desire to stop bloodshed in Iraq and to build a new Iraq, which needs the effort of everyone,” Shamari said to applause at the conference. “We ask of the conference to make peace, because real courage is to choose the path of peace and use it to build our beloved country,” Shamari said. “I’d like to ask this conference for a mechanism to follow up this issue.”

This sounds rather far from a done deal.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.