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May 09, 2008

al-Sadr's String of Triumphs Continues: Sadrists Agree to Permit IA in Sadr City to Seize Weapons and Arrest Those Carrying Them

The Black Knight always triumphs!

Followers of rebel cleric Muqtada al Sadr agreed late Friday to allow Iraqi security forces to enter all of Baghdad's Sadr City and to arrest anyone found with heavy weapons in a surprising capitulation that seemed likely to be hailed as a major victory for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki.

In return, Sadr's Mahdi Army supporters won the Iraqi government's agreement not to arrest Mahdi Army members without warrants, unless they were in possession of "medium and heavy weaponry."

The agreement would end six weeks of fighting in the vast Shiite Muslim area that's home to more than 2 million residents and would mark the first time that the area would be under government control since Saddam Hussein was toppled in 2003. On Friday, 15 people were killed and 112 were injured in fighting, officials at the neighborhoods two major hospitals said.

It also would be a startling turnaround in fortunes for Maliki, who'd been widely criticized for picking a fight with Sadr's forces, first in the southern port city of Basra and then in Sadr City.

Members of Maliki's Dawa Party and the powerful Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq met with Sadr officials on Thursday and Friday to come up with a 14-point agreement to end the weeks of fighting, which has hindered the flow of food and water into Sadr City. The agreement was then passed to Sadr and Maliki for final approval, said Baha al Araji, a Sadrist legislator.

Hundreds of people have been killed and hundreds have been wounded in the fighting, which included frequent U.S. airstrikes. At least 8,500 people have been driven from their homes, and thousands of others have been forced to stay inside, too frightened to flee.

A government supporter said the Sadrists were brought to the table by the anger of Sadr City residents. On Thursday, the Iraqi military ordered Sadr City residents to evacuate in apparent preparation for a major offensive push.

"It is not the government who pressured the Sadrists into entering this agreement," said Ali al Adeeb, a leading member of the Dawa party. "It is the pressure from the people inside Sadr City and from their own people that will make them act more responsibly."

In related news, the New York Times Magazine will feature an eight-page photo spread of this year's Kentucky Derby champion, Eight Belles.

Thanks to CJ.


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posted by Ace at 07:41 PM

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