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June 16, 2004
Sadr Retreats

Moqtada al-Sadr has ordered his forces to leave the holy city of Najaf unless individuals live there, according to the BBC and Reuters:

Radical Iraqi cleric Moqtada Sadr has told his militia to leave the southern city of Najaf, the scene of frequent clashes with US-led forces in the past. Mr Sadr issued a statement calling on his men who are not from Najaf to "do their duty" and go home. He agreed a truce earlier - although isolated outbreaks of fighting between militia and police continued in Najaf.

Last week the cleric announced he would set up a political party to contest elections next year.

Unlike the outcome in Fallujah, the US-led CPA seems to have done an excellent job in isolating Sadr, turning other Shi'ite clerics against him and stripping him of any political cover he enjoyed. At the same time, the CPA has enabled the Iraqi government to take the lead in dealing with Sadr instead of providing Sadr with more excuses for anti-American tirades. Bush's insistence on transferring sovereignty on June 30 also cut Sadr's protests off at the knees.

Now Sadr wants to form a political party to push his ideas, although Sadr himself would be ineligible for office for the next three years. It demonstrates the success of the American intervention in Iraq that militias are busy turning rifles into podiums, if not plowshares. If even the most radical of the Islamists in Iraq want to transform themselves into democrats, it shows that Bush was right all along.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 16, 2004 7:04 AM

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