Jaafari Suggests to Muqtada that he go into Exile
az-Zaman reports from Najaf that informed sources are saying that the chief intermediary between the Coalition and Muqtada al-Sadr right now is the leader of the al-Da`wa Party, Ibrahim Jaafari, who is presently in Najaf. The sources said that Jaafari met al-Sadr on Wednesday and suggested to him that he leave Iraq. The sources said Jaafari had shared with the grand ayatollahs in Najaf a copy of an agreement he intends to show to Muqtada later. His militia, the Mahdi Army, would have to be given a new form or melted into other forces. As for the Coalition insistence that Muqtada present himself to a court in connection with the April 9, 2003, murder of Abdul Majid al-Khu’i (Khoei), the sources said that Muqtada has no objections to doing so, but insists that it be a sovereign Iraqi court (i.e. after June 30).
Reports say that Najaf is relatively calm, but there is still a high level of tension in the city.
Cole: I myself suggest Baku, Azerbaijan for Muqtada’s exile until June 30. It is a Shiite society so he wouldn’t feel that alien, but it has strong secular traditions and is largely Turkic speaking. Iran would be all right, but it is apparently refusing to take him for fear it will later give the US a pretext to attack Iran militarily.
Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson of Knight-Ridder provides a first-hand profile of some of Muqtada al-Sadr’s militiamen (and one militia woman). They are not the mere criminal enemies of freedom that they are often depicted by the Neocons, but rather care deeply about Iraqi independence, and they are from the wrong side of the tracks and impatient.