Al-Sadr orders fighters to stop attacks
Iraq reciprocates by lifting Baghdad curfew; hundreds killed over last week
BAGHDAD - Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr on Sunday ordered his fighters off the streets nationwide and called on the government to stop raids against his followers and free them from prison.This is anything but a loss or surrender for al-Sadr and he's not backing down.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki issued a statement calling the order “a step in the right direction” towards resolving six days of violence sparked by operations against al-Sadr's backers in the oil-rich southern city of Basra.
The Iraqi government later said it would lift a Baghdad curfew on Monday morning. A vehicle ban will stay in place in three Shiite militia strongholds in the capital. Officials three days earlier had ordered unauthorized vehicles and pedestrians off the streets.
Al-Sadr’s nine-point statement was issued by his headquarters in the holy city of Najaf and broadcast through loudspeakers at Shiite mosques.
“Because of the religious responsibility, and to stop Iraqi blood being shed ... we call for an end to armed appearances in Basra and all other provinces,” al-Sadr said in a statement. “Anyone carrying a weapon and targeting government institutions will not be one of us.”
Al-Sadr also called for an end to “random arrests” of his followers and for them to benefit from an amnesty law passed by parliament in February aimed at freeing thousands of prisoners from Iraqi jails.
Al-Sadr aide Hazem al-Araji said the fighters would not hand over guns. “The weapons of the resistance will not be delivered to the Iraqi government,” he told journalists.This is a no win situation for al-Malaki and a brilliant move by al-Sadr. The Iraqi government has been given the opportunity to back down. If he decides to continue he runs the chance of losing and taken the blame for additional civilian deaths. If he does back down he will show how little power he actually has. Iran's involvement in this cannot be underestimated. Iran certainly does not what it's very own Badr brigade to be beaten by the Mahdi army. They don't what their allies in the ICSI to lose. Iran forced this on al-Sadr not anything the al-Malaki government did. The real friend of Iran is not al-Sadr it is the ICSI and their Badr brigade.
From the right Michael van der Galien agrees:
The peace offer isn’t an offer by someone who’s losing: it’s an offer of someone who believes he’s winning but who’s done fighting. Someone who may be winning, but prefers ‘peace’ in so far that the government withdraws completely from Basra and leaves Basra in the hands of its (the government’s) enemies.
Al-Sadr’s offer makes one thing very clear, I think: if al-Maliki accepts it, it’s al-Sadr who has shown his own government and the Americans who’s in charge of Basra. And it ain’t the latter two.