Muqtada Will Negotiate without Preconditions: Iran Involved
Reuters is reporting that radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has ceased demanding a US pullback from Najaf as a precondition for negotiating. He gave in under enormous pressure from the senior Shiite establishment in Najaf, which wants to avert a US invasion of the city a la Fallujah. Despite his bluster, Muqtada has in the past often backed down and even said obsequious things about the US under pressure.
‘ Sadr’s spokesman, Qays al-Khazali, said the cleric, bowing to pressure from senior Shi’ite religious authorities, was now ready to negotiate without insisting that U.S.-led forces first leave residential areas of Najaf and free detainees. Sadr himself told the German news agency DPA: “We want to free holy Najaf from the claws of the occupiers.” He said he was willing to die in the struggle, but left the door open to “well-meaning” negotiators who wanted to help end the violence. Iran said Washington wanted its help. “Naturally, there are demands by Americans…that we help to resolve the crisis in Iraq. And we are acting,” Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said. ‘
The Iranians also seem pleased to be drawn into a role in resolving the issue. I am frankly amazed that the US is willing to countenance this, and it seems a sign of real desperation on the part of the Bush administration to turn to the Axis of Evil for help. I am also amazed that Khamenei agreed to it on the Iranian side, and can only imagine that he thinks that it is a good thing to have the Americans owe him one so that he can continue to crush the reformists and reconsolidate conservative control of Iran. But once Iran is drawn into a formal role in Iraqi Shiite politics, the Bush administration should be aware that it will not be easy to push them back out. There is a story about the desert camel that is cold and its master lets it put its nose under the tent. But then it slides in its head, slowly slowy. Then its hump. And finally there is only a camel in the tent and the hapless owner has been pushed out into the cold night. We may be witnessing the insertion of the camel’s nose.