McClatchy provides a lot of important detail about Sunday’s surprising developments regarding the fight between the Iraqi government and the Mahdi Army. A parliamentary delegation from Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s own coalition (mainly now the Da`wa Party and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq) defied him by going off to the holy seminary city of Qom in Iran and negotiating directly with Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr and with the leader of the Quds Brigades of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Brig. Gen. Qasim Sulaymani.
As a result of those parleys, Muqtada al-Sadr called on his followers to stand down, though I read his statement as permitting continued armed self-defense, as at Basra where the Iraqi Army is attacking them and the US is bombing them. Significantly, he calls on the Mahdi Army to stop attacking the HQs of rival political parties. That language suggests that the parties are suffering from such attacks and are worried that party infrasture is being degraded ahead of the October 1 provincial elections. The southern parties have essentially defied al-Maliki and Bush to make a separate peace.
The entire episode underlines how powerful Iran has become in Iraq. The Iranian government had called on Saturday for the fighting to stop. And by Sunday evening it had negotiated at least a similar call from Sadr (whether the fighting actually stops remains to be seen and depends on local commanders and on whether al-Maliki meets Sadr’s conditions).
Al-Sadr’s statement is translated here. The main points:
‘ We have decided the following:
1. Cancel the armed manifestation in Basra and all over the governorates.
2. Stopping the illegal and random raids and arrests.
3. Demanding the government to apply the General Amnesty law and release all the prisoners that was not proved to be guilty and especially the prisoners of Sadr movement.
4. We announce our innocence from any one who caries the weapon and target the government and services apparatuses and establishments and parties offices.
5. Cooperating with the government apparatuses in achieving security and condemn criminals according to the legal procedures.
6. We assure that the Sadr movement doesn’t have any heavy weapons.
7. Working on returning the displaced people that moved due to security events to their original places.
8. We are asking the government to take care of the Human rights on all of its procedures.
9. Working on achieving the constructional and services projects all over the governorates.
[Signed and stamped Muqtada Sadr 22/Rabi Awal/1429]‘
The NYT notes the irony here that the al-Maliki government is dependent on Muqtada al-Sadr to pull its fat from the fire:
‘Many Iraqi politicians say that Mr. Maliki’s political capital has been severely depleted by the campaign and that he is now in the curious position of having to turn to Mr. Sadr, a longtime rival and now his opponent in battle, for a solution to the crisis.’
McClatchy reports civil war violence on Sunday, suggesting that any cease fire has not yet taken hold:
- Rockets hit the Green Zone (IZ) in Baghdad in different times in the morning and afternoon. No casualties reported.
- Around 5 pm, gunmen attacked New Baghdad police station (east Baghdad) .Three policemen were injured.
- Around 5 pm, mortars hit Dora police station .No casualties recorded.
- Around 5 pm, clashes took place in Ur between gunmen and Iraqi police . Six people were injured including two policemen.
- At 5:10 pm, two mortars hit Karrada neighborhood , one hit Al-Hussein intersection near Al-Hussein two floor bridge killing 3 and injuring 8 others while the second shell hit a barber shop few meters of the same intersection killing 3 and injuring 13 others.
- Police found five dead bodies in . . . neighborhoods in Baghdad . . .
- Around 7:30 pm, three people were killed due to a fighter plane bombing at Abu Sukheir neighborhood (north Basra).
- Around 9:30 am, American planes bombed Jizan neighborhood of Wajihiyah (20 east Baquba).One civilian was killed and another was injured.
- In the morning, one civilian was killed during the clashes between the Iraqi army and gunmen at Kanaan (10 km south east Baquba)
- Around 10 am, a roadside bomb targeted the convoy of Ibrahim Hassan, the head of Diyala governorate council , while it was on its way at Saadiya (90 km east Baquba) between Baquba and Khanaqeen .Two of his guards were killed in that incident.
- Around 9.30 pm of Saturday night, a roadside bomb targeted an Iraqi army patrol at Al-Haidriyah (Khan Al-Nus) in midway between Najaf and Karbala. One officer was killed with two other soldiers.
- In the morning, gunmen attacked a police check point at Bishkan village (10 km east of Dhulwiyah near Balad) .Six policemen were killed including an officer with their vehicle damaged.
- Today, an American force arrested two members of Al-Alam supporting council near AlLaqlaq village (35 km north of Tikrit) one of them is an officer .
- In the morning, clashes took place between gunmen and police at Sahachi (west Mosul).Colonel Qasim Ziad, the commander of the first police battalion in Mosul was killed with one of his guards.
- In the morning, a roadside bomb targeted a rescue police patrol at Tiseen street in Kirkuk city. Three people were injured in that incident including two women. ‘