BAGHDAD, OCTOBER 7: A rebel Shi’ite Muslim militia led by Moqtada Al-Sadr pledged on Thursday to disarm in what could be a major advance for US-Iraqi efforts to calm violence in Iraq ahead of elections due in January.
The proposal, which meets a key demand of the interim government, was announced by Ali Smeism, a top Sadr adviser, on Arabic Al-Arabiya television. It followed the release of a pro-Sadr cleric from US detention in Abu Ghraib jail. Smeism said that in return for any weapons surrender, the government must guarantee that Sadr’s followers are not ‘‘persecuted’’ and the US military must free more of his aides
He said the proposed deal focused on militiamen holed up in the Baghdad slum district of Sadr City, a hotbed of anti-US activity, but could be extended to other ‘‘areas of tension’’. Talks are also under way to defuse a standoff with insurgents controlling the Sunni Muslim stronghold of Falluja.
Soon after Smeism’s announcement, insurgents delivered a noisy reminder of their presence, sending at least two rockets crashing into central Baghdad’s Sheraton hotel.
There was no immediate word from the government or the US military on the ceasefire deal proposed by Sadr’s aide. Foreign Minister Franco Frattini of Italy, which has troops in Iraq, said it was a good start.
‘‘The news... confirms that the difficult path towards democracy is possible in Iraq,’’ he said in a statement. ‘‘This strengthens the hope that the elections can be conducted well: the same hope that drives the United Nations and the main international partners,’’ he added.
The timing seemed to be linked to the release hours earlier of senior Sadr cleric Moayad Al-Khazraji, who has spent almost a year in US custody in Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.
A US official confirmed Khazraji was among 230 Iraqis freed from Abu Ghraib this week. Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi insists that Sadr’s Mehdi Army militia give up weapons and get off the streets. For the past several days his government has been negotiating with Shi’ite elders and Sadr’s aides on a possible ceasefire. Talks have also been underway to defuse Iraq’s most stubborn troublespot, Falluja, and the Sunni Muslim city’s chief negotiator said they could bear fruit soon.
‘‘The negotiations with the Iraqi government and the US Army have reached a positive stage and an agreement has been reached for radical solutions,’’ Sheikh Khalid Al-Jumaili said. —Reuters
Of course, they have to do this, but this is the rotten underbelly of Bush's rhetoric. And it ain't cowboy talk.
By the way Khalid Al-Jumailihe ..."has been mediating between some leaders in Fallujah and the government."
So, yeah, they're negotiating with terrorists. Remember that.