New Proposal for Mahdi Army in Najaf
A new proposal has emerged for dealing with the stand-off in Najaf, whereby the US troops will withdraw from the city to their bases and Mahdi Army fighters will be amnestied for 72 hours to allow them to leave Najaf. This plan is intended to salvage a cease-fire announced over the weekend, but which has fallen apart, with heavy fighting in Kufa between the Mahdi Army and US troops.
Al-Zurufi said, “The Mahdi Army must relinquish its positions. As for its members who do not live in the city (Najaf), they must depart it.” (al-Hayat).
On Tuesday, according to az-Zaman, the US positioned several tanks near the grand mosque, in response to which the Mahdi Army launched heavy mortar rounds. Veteran US diplomat and Arabist Christopher Ross informed the Najaf governor, Adnan al-Zurufi, of the plan. There is also a provision for US purchase of the militiamen’s arms. Although Al-Zurufi was told that Muqtada al-Sadr agreed to the new plan, it is not at all clear that it will have more success than previous such plans.
Meanwhile, one of the new vice-presidents of the caretaker government, Ibrahim Jaafari, admitted that the al-Da`wa Party, to which he belongs, has reservations about the Yawar/Allawi government. (-al-Hayat).
The new government was ushered in by further tragedy, when some 14 Iraqis were killed and over 50 wounded by a truck bomb at the HQ of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan in Baghdad.