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With the US talking about sending more troops to Baghdad and Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani organizing a coalition to strip Nouri al-Maliki of his position as Prime Minister, Moqtada al-Sadr has apparently blinked yet again. The radical Shi'ite cleric has begun to consider a unilateral cease-fire in the sectarian war that he has masterminded in an attempt to bolster his political viability in Iraqi politics:
Radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who heads a militia feared by Iraq's Sunnis, is considering a one-month unilateral cease-fire and may push his followers to rejoin the political process after a three-week boycott, officials close to him said.
The issue is expected to come up at a meeting Thursday in the holy city of Najaf between al-Sadr and a delegation representing the seven Shiite groups that form the largest bloc in Iraq's parliament, the Shiite officials said on condition of anonymity because of the secrecy of the talks.
Half the delegates traveled to Najaf on Wednesday night, and were gathered Thursday morning at the home of the country's top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, an official in al-Sistani's office said on condition of anonymity because of political sensitivities. The others were traveling to Najaf on Thursday, he said.
The visit is intended to allow the Shiite bloc, the United Iraqi Alliance, to work out some of Iraq's biggest political obstacles in front of al-Sistani, and to pressure al-Sadr to rein in his fighters and rejoin politics or face isolation, participants said.
Sadr has had marvelous political instincts in the three post-invasion years. He narrowly avoided assassination, and then played a cat-and-mouse game with the Americans, both in Baghdad and in Najaf, where the Iraqis just took control. He edged close to total defeat on more than one occasion, rescuing himself on those occasions by promising to engage in the political process rather than in terrorism. When sufficiently freed from oversight, he invariably returns to his radical and violent ways.
That's what makes this so frustrating. We should have fought until we defeated Sadr and crushed his militias when we had the opportunity and the momentum. By cutting deals with Sadr, we only postponed the inevitable and undermined Sistani. Once again, we find ourselves in a position where we have to organize massive forces to neutralize Sadr politically, an effort that would not have been necessary had we executed the original warrant for his arrest following his role in the assassination of a competing moderate cleric in the days following the defeat of Saddam Hussein.
Our effort shows once again that Sadr is a slippery and clever foe. When outmatched, he retreats and regroups. The unilateral cease-fire he proposes would go a long way towards ending the sectarian violence in Iraq, since he seems to inspire most of it anyway. Such an effort will convince Iraqis to protect him from arrest and marginalization yet again -- and we'll have to keep repeating this strategy until the Iraqis get tired enough of this game that they allow the US to decisively deal with Sadr and his Mahdi Army.Sphere It View blog reactions
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Tracked on December 21, 2006 9:05 AM
» Sadr Reconsiders, Part 37B from Bill's Bites
Sadr Reconsiders, Part 37BEd Morrissey With the US talking about sending more troops to Baghdad and Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani organizing a coalition to strip Nouri al-Maliki of his position as Prime Minister, Moqtada al-Sadr has apparently blinked... [Read More]
Tracked on December 21, 2006 12:02 PM
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