Well, the latest reports still are saying that Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani in Najaf issued a fatwa or legal ruling today that urges Shiites not to interfere with the US troops as they take control of Iraq.
The confusion was caused by al-Jazeera, which carried a denial. It is not impossible that the confusion is deliberate on the part of Sistani’s staff. Sistani has been under enormous pressure from the Baath regime for over a decade. An assassination attempt was launched on him by the Baath in 1996. His colleague, Grand Ayatollah Sadr, was assassinated in 1999, provoking widespread unrest in Shiite areas. In September of 2002 Sistani was forced to issue a fatwa calling on Shiites to oppose the US.
Brig. General Vincent Brooks had said at CENTCOM in Qatar that the new fatwa marks a turning point in the war.
US forces in Najaf are said to be negotiating with Sistani about the administration of the city for the time being. An ugly confrontation between GIs and local Shiites afraid they would move on the shrine of Imam Ali was narrowly averted. It still amazes me that I could see scenes like that on television almost in real time. The troops wisely backed off.