Monday, March 31, 2008

Shiite cleric Sadr’s withdrew forces from Basra clashes after appeal from Iraqi government officials

DEBKAfile - Shiite cleric Sadr’s withdrew forces from Basra clashes after appeal from Iraqi government officials: "Moqtada Sadr ordered his Mehdi Army militiamen off the streets of the Shiite cities on March 30 after Iraqi government officials traveled to Tehran to meet him and negotiate terms for ending the prime minister Nouri al Maliki’s crackdown, according to the New York Times .

Shiite cleric Sadr demanded that the government stopped fighting the militias in Basra and granted his followers an amnesty. As Shiite-versus-Shiite strife spread to other cities in the south and Baghdad the troops commanded by Iraq’s Shiite prime minister Nouri al-Maliki failed to dislodge the militias from their strongholds in Basra, Iraq’s third largest city and main oil port.

DEBKAfile reports: The prime minister may be held accountable for a venture which failed in its mission to loosen the grip of militias belonging to Shiite government parties as well as Sadr. The cohesion of the ruling Shiite bloc has been placed at risk.

From a go-it-alone Iraqi venture on Tuesday, Maliki was reduced by Friday to calling on US and UK forces, which deployed warplanes to bomb militia targets in Basra Friday and Saturday. Both are looking into complaints of civilian casualties.

The Maliki government faced another sort of challenge in Baghdad when 40 policemen, their faces covered, handed over their weapons"

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