FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Sadr Calls for Ceasefire

 

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.

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

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

April 25, 2018
Stanley L. Cohen
Selective Outrage
Dan Kovalik
The Empire Turns Its Sights on Nicaragua – Again!
Joseph Essertier
The Abductees of Japan and Korea
Ramzy Baroud
The Ghost of Herut: Einstein on Israel, 70 Years Ago
W. T. Whitney
Imprisoned FARC Leader Faces Extradition: Still No Peace in Colombia
Manuel E. Yepe
Washington’s Attack on Syria Was a Mockery of the World
John White
My Silent Pain for Toronto and the World
Dean Baker
Bad Projections: the Federal Reserve, the IMF and Unemployment
David Schultz
Why Donald Trump Should Not be Allowed to Pardon Michael Cohen, His Friends, or Family Members
Mel Gurtov
Will Abe Shinzo “Make Japan Great Again”?
Binoy Kampmark
Enoch Powell: Blood Speeches and Anniversaries
Frank Scott
Weapons and Walls
April 24, 2018
Carl Boggs
Russia and the War Party
William A. Cohn
Carnage Unleashed: the Pentagon and the AUMF
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
The Racist Culture of Canadian Hockey
María Julia Bertomeu
On Angers, Disgusts and Nauseas
Nick Pemberton
How To Buy A Seat In Congress 101
Ron Jacobs
Resisting the Military-Now More Than Ever
Paul Bentley
A Velvet Revolution Turns Bloody? Ten Dead in Toronto
Sonali Kolhatkar
The Left, Syria and Fake News
Manuel E. Yepe
The Confirmation of Democracy in Cuba
Peter Montgomery
Christian Nationalism: Good for Politicians, Bad for America and the World
Ted Rall
Bad Drones
Jill Richardson
The Latest Attack on Food Stamps
Andrew Stewart
What Kind of Unionism is This?
Ellen Brown
Fox in the Hen House: Why Interest Rates Are Rising
April 23, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
In Middle East Wars It Pays to be Skeptical
Thomas Knapp
Just When You Thought “Russiagate” Couldn’t Get Any Sillier …
Gregory Barrett
The Moral Mask
Robert Hunziker
Chemical Madness!
David Swanson
Senator Tim Kaine’s Brief Run-In With the Law
Dave Lindorff
Starbucks Has a Racism Problem
Uri Avnery
The Great Day
Nyla Ali Khan
Girls Reduced to Being Repositories of Communal and Religious Identities in Kashmir
Ted Rall
Stop Letting Trump Distract You From Your Wants and Needs
Steve Klinger
The Cautionary Tale of Donald J. Trump
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Conflict Over the Future of the Planet
Cesar Chelala
Gideon Levy: A Voice of Sanity from Israel
Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail