News and opinions on situation in Iraq
20/08/04 Al Sadr Agrees to Pull Out If There Is A Genuine, Honest Truce By Sam Hamod
  Al-Jazeerah, August 20, 2004

US-led troops have been attacking Muslim Shi'is and Al Sadr forces for nearly two weeks. Prior to this, there had been a peaceful truce in Najaf between the Shi'is and the Polish troops. But when the U.S. Marines came in, they decided to make a full frontal assault on Al Sadr and the Imam Ali Shrine and Mosque in Najaf. This allegedly shocked even the Pentagon, which had not called for such an attack. As one retired Major General said today, on hearing this, “These officers should face courts martial and dishonorable discharge for such an uncalled for action.”

Popular Shi'i cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr has offered to end an uprising in the Iraqi holy city of Najaf. However, Mr Sadr says there must be a truce before his Mehdi militia will leave the Imam Ali shrine and disarm.

Meanwhile, other Iraqi resistance fighters say they captured a US journalist last week are said to have threatened to kill him if US forces do not leave Najaf. Al Sadr is not related to the group, but it shows the anger toward the West in Iraq; this anger is escalating. None of this is good in the long run for Iraq or the United States.

The first indications that Mr Sadr was offering to withdraw from the Imam Ali shrine came during a national conference in Baghdad to select an interim Iraqi council. The delegates had voted with 75% in favor of ousting America from Iraq. The Allawi delegates used various parliamentary techniques to stall this majority resolution and to put themselves back in control of the meeting.

As delegates met for an unscheduled fourth day on Wednesday, one of the organisers of the meeting read out a letter which she said she had received from Mr Sadr, in which he accepted the national conference's terms. Most of the delegates were pleased with this and instituted a peace delegation to help with a truce in Najaf and a solution to the problem.

Beside the truce, the group wanted Al Sadr to join the political process, this according to the chief spokesperson for the group, Ms. Khuzai.

The group arrived, met with Al Sadr and his spokespersons, and came to an agreement which Al Sadr signed. This seemed to help solve the problem. Then, complications from Allawi's side, from Al Sha'alan began—because Al Sha'alan then began to lie about the whole affair and what had been accomplished. Then, to contradict the Pentagon story, Donald Rumsfeld became involved and said that the “Iraqi Army” would attack the Imam Ali Shrine. Most expert observers know there is no real Iraqi Army, only mercenaries dressed as Arabs and some Iraqis who are former Ba'athists who do not care about religion or peace, but make their money from war. Thus, Rumsfeld's words fell on deaf ears in the Arab and Muslim worlds—people there knew these were flimsy lies and should not be taken seriously. So, once again, Rumsfeld's hand was seen in the matter, through the mouthings of Al Shaalan—but this time, Rumsfeld's own words convicted him of this sacriligeous crime of an attack on a Muslim Holy Site.

There was upset in the peace delegation because Allawi's spokespersons lied, by saying that Mr Sadr had refused to see a peace delegation sent by the conference, citing concerns over security and the status of the delegates. However, the peace delegation head said that Sadr had agreed to meet with them, but had sent his chief assistant and had agreed to a cease fire if the American troops would withdraw and create an honest truce. He then signed documents attesting to this. But then this was disrupted by a hostile Allawi aid, Mr. Al Sha'alan who didn't want to admit this had been accepted and threatened more strikes against the Imam Ali Shrine.

Muslim leaders the world over decried the sacrilegious behavior of Allawi and Shaalan and the American commanders in Najaf. As the head of the religious council in Iran put it, “If defiling of this holy site occurs, it will never be forgotten. It would be a grave mistake by the U.S. and Allawi.” Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon have also voiced concerns about the Americans allowing the Shrine to be attacked. Several have called for Allawi and Shaalan's ouster.

One of Mr Sadr's spokesmen, Sheikh Hassan al-Zerkani, told the BBC and Al Jazeera TV that the cleric's offer was genuine, but guarantees needed to come from the occupiers, not the occupied. He said signs were needed from the Americans that they would not go after the Mehdi Army. The American troops and the thousand of foreign mercenaries who are masquerading as Arabs in Najaf “are not to be trusted” according to the peace delegation and Sadr's spokesperson. Most Iraqis in the democratic congress have voiced concerns about the Allawi regime and the American government pulling its strings.

Mr. Sha'alan later said Mr Sadr and his followers would be granted amnesty only after they abandoned their uprising in Najaf and other cities. This threw another monkey wrench into the process and showed that Mr. Al Shaalan was not interested in peace, but wanted to have Mr. Sadr killed or captured. This has created more problems. As the peace delegation pointed out, Mr. Shaalan is more of the problem than anyone else; but, of course, he represents Allawi who represents Negroponte, who represents Bush and Rumsfeld. * * *

Elsewhere in Iraq, the US military says it killed more than 50 Shi'i militiamen on Wednesday in a significant advance into Sadr City, a Baghdad suburb known as a Mehdi Army stronghold. These killings in Sadr City are another example of American troops who say they are bringing “freedom” and “democracy” but in fact, are killing Iraqis daily. There is something drastically wrong in the American contradictions—saying one thing, then doing another. Many leaders in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America have called for Americans to leave Iraq, not continue their brutal behavior. According to a new poll taken in Africa and Europe, America is seen as the chief threat to peace in the world.

Americans may kill Iraqis, but they are losing the war of public opinion, all their friends and all their respect in the world. If this insane behavior continues—we will have no friends in the world save a few who exist on our financial dole.

Sam Hamod is an expert on the Middle East and Islam, a former advisor to the State Department, Director of the Islamic Center in Washington, DC (ret.), founder and editor of 3rd World News in DC; he may be reached at 

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