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October 11, 2004
Sadr City Begins Disarming

While I was disconnected this weekend, Moqtada al-Sadr finally cut a disarmament deal for the insurgents of Sadr City, agreeing to trade weapons for cash and allowing the Iraqi National Guard to take over the Baghdad slum area. Disarmament started today, with Shi'ite leadership in the area encouraging their followers to abide by the terms of capitulation:

"I've given up my weapons, I'm with the interim government now," said Ahmed Hashem after handing over 22 rocket-propelled grenades. "We want peace and I won't fight the Americans."

The U.S.-backed government aims to retake control of rebel-held areas throughout Iraq by political or military means ahead of national assembly elections due in January.

Mehdi Army fighters led by Moqtada al-Sadr began handing in weapons at the start of a five-day period in which they have agreed to disarm in the flashpoint Sadr City district.

It's going slowly, and understandably so; Sadr had fired up this district for so long, handing over weapons will feel too much like surrender for the partisans of the area named for his father. In fact, just as in Najaf, the act of backing down will not do wonders for his political standing. It beats being dead, though, and no one doubts that an early death was Sadr's destiny as long as he continued to oppose the Iraqis and Americans with the rag-tag and undisciplined force that the Mahdi Army demonstrated itself to be on every occasion.

With Samarra pacified and Sadr City capitulating, the Iraqis and Americans appear to be rolling up the major centers for terrorist operations. Fallujah knows it's next, and the city leaders are reaching out for a political solution that probably won't exist for the Zarqawi base:

Peace talks are also under way to try to resolve a standoff in the Sunni Muslim stronghold of Falluja, west of Baghdad, held by insurgents since a failed U.S. assault in April. Falluja representatives met Defense Minister Hazim Shaalan in Baghdad to hear details of his plans to deploy National Guards in the city under a proposed agreement.

Some insurgents in Falluja have said they do not object to such a deal, or to participation in the elections, as long as U.S. forces keep out of the Sunni stronghold west of Baghdad.

Fallujah will present more of a problem for negotiations. First and foremost, Abu Masab al-Zarqawi is known to operate out of Fallujah and has imposed his own police state on the City of Mosques. Ejecting Zarqawi will require Zarqawi's cooperation, just as Sadr needed to back out of Najaf, and Zarqawi shows no indication of being interested in any negotiations or having political aspirations. Zarqawi isn't an Iraqi and wants no stake in a democratic Iraq. The Fallujah negotiators won't have the authority or the power, therefore, to deliver control of the city; they will try to negotiate what amounts to a peace accord between the city and the Iraqi interim government which would result in Fallujah being its own city-state, for all practical purposes. Neither the Allawi government nor the US will accept such an arrangement.

The only way Fallujah can avoid a pacification offensive such as the one conducted in Samarra will be to have the residents get rid of the terrorists themselves, which will also be unlikely. It would be almost impossible to organize a resistance with the level of oppression currently in the city, and unless some event spontaneously causes a massive eruption among the non-terrorists in the city, Zarqawi's gangs would tear the Fallujans to pieces. Probably the best thing Fallujan non-combatants could do would be to evacuate the city as covertly as possible, allowing the Iraqis and Americans a freer hand in dealing with those left in the city.

Either way, the disarming of Sadr City shows that the lessons of Samarra have been heard and understood. The Iraqis and Americans are not afraid to confront terrorist strongholds straight on, and can clear them out in a matter of days, when determined to do so. Fallujah may be days away from discovering the same lessons, up close and personal.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 11, 2004 8:15 AM

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» If You Can't Beat 'Em, Bribe 'Em from Sparse Matrix
The Iraqi interim government is trying a different tack in the conflict with Shi'ite rebels in Baghdad. Bribery: BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A Shi'ite militia disarmament plan that could end weeks of fighting in Baghdad got slowly under way on Monday as... [Read More]

Tracked on October 11, 2004 3:01 PM

» Sadr Militia Handing in Weapons from The MUSC Tiger
In what appears to be positive step toward's peace in the Sadr City residents are beginning to turn in their weapons. The Washington Post reports: [Read More]

Tracked on October 11, 2004 5:24 PM

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