FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Sadr Calls for Ceasefire

by PATRICK COCKBURN

 

Muqtada al-Sadr called on his Mehdi Army militia to stop fighting Iraqi government forces in a surprise move after six days of clashes. The Shia cleric also demanded that the government cease arresting his followers and release those detained.

“Because of the religious responsibility, and to stop Iraqi blood being shed, we call for an end to armed appearances in Basra and all other provinces,” said a statement from Mr Sadr’s office in Najaf.

The government is said by the Sadrists to have agreed to stop random arrests and allow the Mehdi Army to keep its weapons.

The Sadrists’ ceasefire was unexpected since they have prevented government forces from advancing in Basra and Baghdad. Hours before the announcement, militiamen stormed the state television station in Basra, forcing the guards to flee and setting armoured vehicles on fire.

A government spokesman said the statementby Mr Sadr was “positive and responsible” and claimed that the operation to overcome the militias in Basra would continue. The Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, had earlier pledged “a decisive and final battle” against militias, though the only one targeted was the Mehdi Army. Yet last night, fighting continued in Basra. And seven people were killed when a mortar struck a residential district in Baghdad’s Karradah district and witnesses reported clashes in the Shula area in a northern section of the capital.

The government’s plan to win control of Basra may now be abandoned, after more than 300 deaths. Its authority was further damaged when soldiers were shown on television handing over their weapons to the Mehdi Army.

Many Iraqi politicians are convinced Mr Maliki’s sudden and ill-prepared attack on Basra was an attempt to crush the Mehdi Army before October’s provincial elections, in which he fears defeat for him and his main ally, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI). The ISCI may also have wanted to force the Mehdi Army into a direct confrontation with US forces, something that Mr Sadr has long sought to avoid. The resistance of his militiamen was drawing in the Americans as US helicopters and planes attacked Mehdi Army positions.

Followers of Mr Sadr handed out sweets as a symbol of victory in his main stronghold of Sadr City, though hours later, rockets were still being fired towards the government and American headquarters in the Green Zone. The US military was shocked at the speed with which the crisis span out of control. Boasts about the ability of the Iraqi army to cope on its own are demonstrably untrue.
Prior to Mr Sadr’s statement, Baghdad was under a curfew, which was expected to be lifted today.

In Basra, a mortar bomb fired by the Mehdi Army hit the palace housing the Iraqi military operations centres, killing one of Mr Maliki’s top military advisers.

PATRICK COCKBURN is the author of ‘The Occupation: War, resistance and daily life in Iraq‘, a finalist for the National Book Critics’ Circle Award for best non-fiction book of 2006. His new book ‘Muqtada! Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia revival and the struggle for Iraq‘ is published by Scribner.

 

 

 

 

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

May 25, 2017
Benjamin Dangl
Trump’s Budget Expands War on the Backs of America’s Poor
Alice Donovan
US-Led Air Strikes Killed Record Number of Civilians in Syria
Andrew Moss
The Meaning of Trump’s Wall
Leslie Scott
Trump in the Middle East: New Ideas, Old Politics
George Wuerthner
Environmental Groups as Climate Deniers
Pauline Murphy
The Irish Dead: Fighting Fascism in Spain, 1937
Brian Trautman
Veterans on the March
Eric Sommer
Trumps Attack on Social Spending Escalates Long-term Massive Robbery of American Work
Binoy Kampmark
Twenty-Seven Hours: Donald Trump in Israel
Christian Hillegas
Trump’s Islamophobia: the Persistence of Orientalism in Western Rhetoric and Media
Michael J. Sainato
Russiagate: Clintonites Spread the Weiner Conspiracy
Walter Clemens
What the President Could Learn from Our Shih-Tzu Eddie
May 24, 2017
Paul Street
Beyond Neoliberal Identity Politics
Daniel Read
Powder Keg: Manchester Terror Attack Could Lead to Yet Another Resurgence in Nationalist Hate
Robert Fisk
When Peace is a Commodity: Trump in the Middle East
Kenneth Surin
The UK’s Epochal Election
Jeff Berg
Lessons From a Modern Greek Tragedy
Steve Cooper
A Concrete Agenda for Progressives
Michael McKinley
Australia-as-Concierge: the Need for a Change of Occupation
William Hawes
Where Are Your Minds? An Open Letter to Thomas de Maiziere and the CDU
Steve Early
“Corporate Free” Candidates Move Up
Fariborz Saremi
Presidential Elections in Iran and the Outcomes
Dan Bacher
The Dark Heart of California’s Water Politics
Alessandra Bajec
Never Ending Injustice for Pinar Selek
Rob Seimetz
Death By Demigod
Jesse Jackson
Venezuela Needs Helping Hand, Not a Hammer Blow 
Binoy Kampmark
Return to Realpolitik: Trump in Saudi Arabia
Vern Loomis
The NRA: the Dragon in Our Midst
May 23, 2017
John Wight
Manchester Attacks: What Price Hypocrisy?
Patrick Cockburn
A Gathering of Autocrats: Trump Puts US on Sunni Muslim Side of Bitter Sectarian War with Shias
Shamus Cooke
Can Trump Salvage His Presidency in Syria’s War?
Thomas S. Harrington
“Risk”: a Sad Comedown for Laura Poitras
Josh White
Towards the Corbyn Doctrine
Mike Whitney
Rosenstein and Mueller: the Regime Change Tag-Team
Jan Oberg
Trump in Riyadh: an Arab NATO Against Syria and Iran
Susan Babbitt
The Most Dangerous Spy You’ve Never Heard Of: Ana Belén Montes
Rannie Amiri
Al-Awamiya: City of Resistance
Dimitris Konstantakopoulos
The European Left and the Greek Tragedy
Laura Leigh
This Land is Your Land, Except If You’re a Wild Horse Advocate
Hervé Kempf
Macron, Old World President
Michael J. Sainato
Devos Takes Out Her Hatchet
L. Ali Khan
I’m a Human and I’m a Cartoon
May 22, 2017
Diana Johnstone
All Power to the Banks! The Winners-Take-All Regime of Emmanuel Macron
Robert Fisk
Hypocrisy and Condescension: Trump’s Speech to the Middle East
John Grant
Jeff Sessions, Jesus Christ and the Return of Reefer Madness
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail