Muqtada Agrees to Dissolve Militia, May go into temporary exile in Iran
az-Zaman reports that Muqtada al-Sadr has accepted a solution of the problems between him and the Coalition on the basis of a deal. It would provide for the senior ayatollahs to issue a ruling or fatwa dissolving the Army of the Mahdi, Muqtada’s militia. Muqtada surrender to the grand ayatollahs and agree to have Abdul Karim al-`Anizi (an official of the Da`wa Party) negotiate for him with the Americans, in the name of the top religious leaders. Muqtada would accept the outcome of those negotiations without condition. Iran would offer him temporary asylum, until June 30 and the formation of a sovereign Iraqi government, at which time he could report to Najaf for his trial. In return, the US would withdraw its forces from the environs of Najaf.
A slightly different account is offered by John Burns of the NYT.
The Iranian delegation, led by Hossain Sadeqi, the director general of the Iranian Foreign Ministry, is heading to the shrine cities from Baghdad. Sadeqi should be seen as a man of President Mohammad Khatami, the reformer.
Meanwhile, Supreme Jurisprudent Ali Khamenei of Iran complained that the Americans said they were bringing democracy to Iraq, but that they have begun butchering people in that country. (Khamenei probably felt the need to put down the US to divert criticism for cooperating with them in helping resolve the Sadr case).
Thursday pm: According to Newsday, an Iranian delegation is on its way to Najaf.
But the bad news is that ‘ Khalil Naimi, the first secretary of the Iranian Embassy, was shot in the head in his car near the embassy, Foreign Ministry official Mohammad Nouri told The Associated Press in Tehran. ‘ This assassination is certainly a protest by hardliners of some sort, Sunni or Shiite, against Iran’s wilingness to help resolve the standoff between Muqtada al-Sadr and the United States. Embassies and embassy personnel helpful to the US have been repeatedly targetted by the guerrillas during the past year, including Jordan, Spain, the Netherlands, and others. Now it is Iran.