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Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Al-Sadr backing down 

Encouraged by the Iraqi people's outrage over the ongoing abuse scandal, radical Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is... calling it quits?

Iraqi rebel Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr has indicated he is ready to end his month-long insurgency in Najaf if the US-led coalition agrees to negotiate.

Aides said Mr Sadr's Mehdi Army could end its rebellion in return for a withdrawal of US troops from the city.

Earlier, hundreds of people marched in Najaf calling for Mr Sadr to end his uprising to avoid civilian casualties.
Kudos to the coalition forces for showing him the error and futility of his ways, and for his fellow clerics in Iraq and Iran for talking some sense into the man. (Not to mention Najaf's burgeoning protest movement.)

It's not entirely clear whether the talks with other Shi'ite clerics and Iraqi officials include a stipulation for al-Sadr's arrest on murder charges. The governor of Najaf said only that the charges "could be halted until after the 30 June handover of power." Whatever that means. It's likely a means of delaying the arrest until it can be done by Iraqi authorities rather than the coalition. If that is the case, then this proposal should be taken seriously by the United States. But the Coalition Provisional Authority should demand al-Sadr's arrest as a non-negotiable condition for withdrawal from Najaf, and then keep an eye on him so he doesn't skip the country in the meantime.
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