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.

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

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

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
July 28, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Diana Johnstone
Collateral Damage: U.S. Sanctions Aimed at Russia Strike Western European Allies
Jim Kavanagh
Donald the Destroyer: Assessing the Trump Effect
Carl Boggs
The Other Side of War: Fury and Repression in St. Louis
Eva Golinger
There is Still Time to Prevent Civil War in Venezuela
Anthony DiMaggio
“A Better Deal”? Dissecting the Democrats’ “Populist” Turn in Rhetoric and Reality
Jeffrey St. Clair
Scout’s Honor
Conn Hallinan
Middle East Chaos
Mumia Abu-Jamal
James Baldwin: Word Warrior
Joshua Frank
The Fire Beneath: Los Angeles is Sitting on a Ticking Time Bomb
Myles Hoenig
It Wasn’t Russia, It was the Green Party!
Andrew Levine
Enter Scaramouche, Stage Right
Brian Cloughley
Time to Get Out of Afghanistan
Gary Leupp
The Trump Revolution Devouring Its Own Children
John Wright
Trump’s Hezbollah Gaff Was No Gaff
Alan Jones
“Finland Station” and the Struggle for Socialism Today
Robert Hunziker
Plastic Chokes the Seas
Eric Draitser
Enough Nonsense! The Left Does Not Collaborate with Fascists
Vijay Prashad
The FBI vs. Comrade Charlie Chaplin
Ishmael Reed
Trump’s Irish-Americans “Without Hearts”
Jane LaTour
Danger! Men Working
Yoav Litvin
The Unbearable Lightness of Counterrevolution
Charles Derber
Universalizing Resistance: How to Trump Trump
Gregory Barrett
Two Johnstones and a Leftish Dilemma: Nationalism vs. Neoliberalism
Joseph Natoli
Choosing the ‘Arteries that Make Money’
CJ Hopkins
Intersectionalist Internet Blues
Pepe Escobar
China and India Torn Between Silk Roads and Cocked Guns
Ralph Nader
Can the World Defend Itself From Omnicide?
Howard Lisnoff
Agape While Waltzing at the Precipice
Musa Al-Gharbi
Want to Shake Up Status Quo? Account for the Default Effect
Angela Kim
North Korean Policy Must Focus on Engagement Not Coercion
Hiroyuki Hamada
Delivering Art in the Empire
David Macaray
Talking Union
Binoy Kampmark
Refugee Conundrums: Resettlement, the UN and the US-Australia Deal
Robert Koehler
Opening Gitmo to the World
David Jaffee
No Safe Space for Student X
Thomas Knapp
The State is at War — With the Future
David Swanson
What’s Missing from Dunkirk Film
Winslow Myers
There Is Still Time, Brother
Robert J. Burrowes
Biological Annihilation on Earth Accelerating
Frederick B. Hudson – Dr. Junis Warren
Robot Scientists Carry Heavy Human Hearts 
Randy Shields
Not My Brother’s Reefer
Sam Lichtman
Where are the Millennials?
Louis Proyect
Death Race: the Cruelties of the Iditarod
Charles R. Larson
Review: Norman Lock’s A Fugitive in Walden Woods
July 27, 2017
Edward Curtin
The Deep State, Now and Then
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail