Iranian general played key role in brokering Iraq cease-fire
BAGHDAD — Iraqi lawmakers traveled to the Iranian holy city of Qom over the weekend to win the support of the commander of Iran's Qods brigades in persuading Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr to order his followers to stop military operations, members of the Iraqi parliament said.USA today reports that al-Sadr was winning.
Sadr ordered the halt on Sunday, and his Mahdi Army militia heeded the order in Baghdad, where the Iraqi government announced it would lift a 24-hour curfew starting early Monday in most parts of the capital.
But fighting continued in the oil hub of Basra, where a six-day-old government offensive against Shiite militias has had only limited gains.
The backdrop to Sadr's dramatic statement was a secret trip Friday by Iraqi lawmakers to Qom, Iran's holy city and headquarters for the Iranian clergy who run the country.
There the Iraqi lawmakers held talks with Brig. Gen. Qassem Suleimani, commander of the Qods (Jerusalem) brigades of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps and signed an agreement with Sadr, which formed the basis of his statement Sunday, members of parliament said.
Ali al Adeeb, a member of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki's Dawa party, and Hadi al Ameri, the head of the Badr Organization, the military wing of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, had two aims, lawmakers said: to ask Sadr to stand down his militia and to ask Iranian officials to stop supplying weapons to Shiite militants in Iraq.
Vali Nasr, an Iraq expert at the Council of Foreign Relations, said al-Sadr had emerged stronger from the battle, which killed more than 300 people. "He let the Americans and the Iraqis know that taking him down is going to be difficult."The losers here were al-Malaki and the Bush administration which is all but irrelevant in Iraq. The winners were al-Sadr and the Iranians. After more than 4,000 American deaths it's the Iranians who have the ability to control event in Iraq.
Al-Sadr's militia stood strong, forcing the government to extend a deadline for them to disarm.
"Everything we heard indicates the Sadrists had control of more ground in Basra at the end of the fighting than they did at the beginning," said al-Nujaifi, the Sunni mediator. "The government realized things were not going in the right direction."