Sadrists Stockpile Weapons in Najaf Mosques, Schools
AP reports that a US general has said that he will move US troops into a base just near the holy city of Najaf as Spanish troops depart. He said that US troops would stay away from the shrine of Imam Ali inside the city. Paul Bremer (-az-Zaman) and Coalition spokesman Dan Senor complained that the Mahdi Army was stockpiling heavy weaponry in mosques and schools in Najaf. Az-Zaman says that Bremer is still intent on arresting Muqtada al-Sadr somehow.
Some reports of these troop movements. like that at the CBC seem to suggest that US forces will move into parts of Najaf beyond the base, but that isn’t actually clear. It does seem clear that the US military is keeping the pressure on Muqtada al-Sadr and his militia in Najaf. This task is a delicate one, since too much pressure could produce another explosion, or start a trend toward the complete alienation of the Shiite majority from the US.
Meanwhile, a Kurdish member of the Interim Govering Council, Mahmud Uthman (Mahmoud Osman), gave an interview to ash-Sharq al-Awsat in which he said that the Sadrist movement is an important part of Iraqi politics and no attempt should be made to marginalize it, but that it must give up violence and learn to engage in civil politics. He said or strongly implied that the Baathists had used violence to try to shut down political movements, and that Iraqis were tired of that approach. (This statement can only be read as a huge slam at Bremer and other American officials who went after the Sadrists in late March and early April, provoking a massive confrontation.)
He said that Muqtada al-Sadr had refused to allow the IGC to play a mediating role, and had instead requested that the al-Da`wa Party (led by IGC member Ibrahim Jaafari) step in. He said that as a result, the IGC has little knowledge of the current negotiations in Najaf. He contrasted that situation with the Fallujah crisis, where, he said, several IGC members have been very active as mediators (and apparently less close-lipped than Jaafari).
He said that the IGC worried that any further confrontation with the US would delay the return of sovereignty to Iraqis on June 30.