Negotiations Collapse amid Fierce Fighting in Karbala
US forces, having collapsed half of the historic al-Mukhayyam Mosque and set 7 hotels on fire in its environs in Karbala, are continuing to fight Mahdi Army militiamen in the area around the shrine of Imam Husain. Az-Zaman reports that fighting is also heavy in the eastern, al-Abbasiyah neighborhood of the holy city. 20 to 30 Mahdi Army men were killed, as they holed up in mosques and other buildings, putting civilians at risk. Hundreds of Iraqi and Iranian pilgrims to the tomb of Imam Husain cowered in their rooms as the firefights grew hot.
The US was given the green light by Karbala governor Saad Sufuk, who says he is determined to get the Army of the Mahdi out of Karbala.
Muqtada al-Sadr, in the meantime suddenly announced that he would dissolve and disarm his militia if these steps were requested by the grand ayatollahs in Najaf. Observers suggested that this was a clever move by Muqtada, since he has now placed the onus on the heretofore somewhat silent senior Shiite leaders.
Some sources are blaming Muqtada for the breakdown of negotiations with the Americans. Others say the problem is Paul Bremer, who is insisting that Muqtada be taken into custody immediately and dealt with before the turn-over of sovereignty on June 30.
I don’t care what Sufouk told them the Americans are most unwise to engage in major combat in Karbala so close to Husain’s tomb. They make themselves look like Yazid. If they, or whoever is reading this, don’t know who Yazid is, then they have no business being in Iraq, much less in Karbala.