Moqtada al Sadr has called for his fighters off the street in exchange for amnesty for his captured folk and the end of US/Iraqi Gov’t raids on his militia.
Here is part of his statement (courtesy BBC):
“Because of the religious responsibility, and to stop Iraqi blood being shed, and to maintain the unity of Iraq and to put an end to this sedition that the occupiers and their followers want to spread among the Iraqi people, we call for an end to armed appearances in Basra and all other provinces.
“Anyone carrying a weapon and targeting government institutions will not be one of us.”
If you caught that dig, the sedition of the occupiers followers means that the Shia Iraqi Government of Nuri al-Maliki and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, whose Badr Corps is de facto the Iraqi Army.
What I have not seen anyone comment upon is that this ceasefire offer is conditional in its formulation. What if Maliki and Crew do not proclaim an amnesty, release some prisoners, and cease their raids? Will the JAM (Jaish-al Mahdi, Mahdi Army) then re-break the truce and return to attack mode?
There is some discrepancy whether the US Army was given a heads up by Maliki that this attack was coming, but either because the Iraqi Army was unable to defeat the Mahdi Army (either in Sadr City in E. Baghdad or in Basra), the US was called in with air strikes. Air strikes. In a country said Army is occupying. Meaning civilians are now dead.
Spencer Ackerman posted a letter a friend of his in Baghdad. This unnamed person predicts quite accurately what is unfolding as of today (my emphasis):
That said, it looks like the cease-fire’s mostly holding, because if it truly disintegrates things in Baghdad will be A LOT worse (much more street fighting, a lot more EFPs and rocket attacks, etc.). I think it all depends on whether the Basra fighting drags on for a while or wraps up.
My complete guess is that it will wrap up sooner rather than later, because the militias will make the same decision Sunni insurgents made over and over again, and just fade into the crowd after putting up some resistance. Their power in the south is as much political as military; I don’t necessarily think that Maliki planting a flag in the center of town will really change things in the long-term. So I guess I’m anticipating something close to the “best-case scenario” — which, this being Iraq, pretty much means that a lot of people will die and things won’t change, as opposed to a lot of people dying just to make things worse than they were before. That said, I think I’m more optimistic about this than a lot of people.
That is the clearest description of the realty of Iraq I’ve read ever I think. All these groups have to do is wait out the US Army and be able to defeat the Iraqi Army (or at least not be defeated by them).
Update I: Speaking of Ackerman, here he is on the LiberalOasis Radio Show discussing foreign policy. They discuss his very good article on the Obama Doctrine and McCain as Bush-Plus.
Listen to one of his final point. The reason foreign fighters (aka al-Qaeda in Iraq) enter Iraq is that they are shown photos of Abu Ghraib and the American occupation.
Update II: If you want to see how this story of Sadr’s call for a ceasefire gets interpreted/spun on the we’re winning in Iraq right, this piece from Ed Morissey. A couple of corrections to Ed’s piece. 1)The British leaving did not create a power vacuum in Basra–the British never controlled Basra. For a year or more they were holed up taking mortar fire on their base. 2)While Captain Ed clearly grasps the intra-Shia nature of the conflict, his pro-war outlook keeps him blinded to the fact that Sadr is playing it cagey as always (lying low) and that the Iraqi Army is really fighting for the pro-Iranian Badr Corps not al-Maliki’s central government. 3)The ceasefire has been called only because the US had to get involved via air strikes (i.e. the Iraqi Army can’t beat the Mahdi Army without the US). Every time the US has to send in air attacks to defeat the Mahdi Army backing Maliki, Maliki is further seen as a tool of the occupation and loses legitimacy. Remember for Shia theology, the image of the persecuted, holy warrior is the most important source of legitimacy.
Reports of Sadr’s imminent demise have been greatly exaggerated every year of this conflict by compatriots of Ed’s. I wouldn’t so easily count him out.