Breaking News: Mahdi Army Departs Shrine
Al-Jazeerah and the American cable news shows are reporting that Mahdi Army fighters handed over the keys of the Imam Ali shrine in Najaf to a representative of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani and departed it overnight. Iraqi police are said to have entered the shrine.
However, the Mahdi militia has not laid down its arms as demanded by Allawi and the Americans, and heavy fighting is still reported in parts of Najaf. Dozens of persons have been killed both in Najaf and in East Baghdad in the past 24 hours.
It is very good news that no assault will have to be made on the shrine. That could have sparked widespread violence and protests. But even what the US military has done to Najaf in the past two weeks while fighting the militiamen has already deeply hurt the reputation of America in southern Iraq and indeed in much of the Muslim world. Although the American public seems somehow unaware that the US has just been bombing the sacred cemetery and parts of the city, some parts of which have been reduced to rubble, everyone in the Muslim world knows exactly what has been going on. They are not amused.