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In Focus: Iran the Basra Peacemaker?

Was a commander of Iran's Quds Brigade behind the cease-fire between the Mahdi Army and the Iraqi government?

by
Michael Weiss

Bio

March 31, 2008 - 12:18 pm

Punctuating a particularly violent and bloody week in Basra is the disturbing news of how it came to an end. The McClatchy newspaper reports today that envoys from the Iraqi government’s ruling Shiite coalition, United Iraqi Alliance (composed of the Dawa and SCIRI parties), traveled to the Iranian city of Qom over the weekend to seek the peacemaking assistance of one Brig. Gen. Qassem Suleimani of the Qods brigade of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, which Congress has designated a terrorist organization.

Suleimani allegedly brokered the tenuous cease-fire that now exists between Muqtada al-Sadr, who is said to be earning his ayatollah wings in the Islamic Republic and is otherwise the mullahs’ point-man in Baghdad, and the Iraqi government. If this disclosure is true, then Iraq has asked its own fifth columnists to help end a nasty sectarian skirmish that has killed nearly 500 people and wounded 900 more.

Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki played no role in the negotiations; if anything, his authority was undercut by them since the delegation that went to Qom consisted of members of his own party. He had previously demurred the possibility of any such talks.

“The delegation was from the United Iraqi Alliance (dominated by the Dawa party and the Supreme Council of Iraq), and the Prime Minister was only informed. It was a political maneuver by us,” said Haider al Abadi, a legislator from Maliki’s Dawa party. “We had evidence (that Muqtada and Iranian-backed militants were fighting security forces) and we sent people urgently…If we had been waiting for one year in Baghdad we wouldn’t have had this result.” The delegation is expected to return to Iraq Monday.

The outcome of the meeting had Sadr issue a nine-point truce agreement that reads as follows:

1. Cancel the armed manifestation in Basra and all over the governorates.

2. Stopping the illegal and random raids and arrests.

3. Demanding the government to apply the General Amnesty law and release all the prisoners that was not proved to be guilty and especially the prisoners of Sadr movement.

4. We announce our innocence from any one who caries the weapon and target the government and services apparatuses and establishments and parties offices.

5. Cooperating with the government apparatuses in achieving security and condemn criminals according to the legal procedures.

6. We assure that the Sadr movement doesn’t have any heavy weapons.

7. Working on returning the displaced people that moved due to security events to their original places.

8. We are asking the government to take care of the Human rights on all of its procedures.

9. Working on achieving the constructional and services projects all over the governorates.

At Talisman Gate, Nibras Kazimi, the Middle East columnist for the New York Sun, is appalled by the New York Times’ coverage of the Basra fighting. He thinks the Grey Lady’s Baghdad Bureau Chief James Glanz is an insufferable tyro who knows nothing of Iraqi culture and even less of Iraqi politics. Against the Times’ argument that the U.S. has been abased by the latest skirmish and its dubious conclusion, Kazimi writes: “Too bad the Mahdi Army is losing very badly. There were a rash of violent outbreaks here and there in Hillah Province and in al-Hamza in the last few days, but today the situation there is one where the Iraqi Army and police—the Scorpion Brigade in particular—are hunting down the Sadrists with a vengeance with the active help of the local population, according to a well-placed and influential source from Hillah.

Noting Iran’s conspicuous involvement in brokering a peace deal, Jules Crittenden says: “Some people might be inclined to look at this as evidence of what they’ve said all along. Iran can be a partner for peace. But if anyone had any question, it has just been amply demonstrated that Iran has the power to turn it on and turn it off. That makes Iraq, in the absence of American troops, Iran’s bitch.”

And Allahpundit at Hot Air wonders why Iran told the Mahdi Army to drawn down: “I wondered a few days ago if they weren’t stirring the pot now to complicate Petraeus’s testimony in front of Congress, but if that were true they’d want to keep up the fighting for as long as they can… Their ratlines into Iraq had been closed off and they were worried about not being able to resupply the militias, especially with the U.S. and Brits about to be dragged into the fighting.”

See also PJ Media’s own Mohammed Fahdil‘s take on the war on the Sadrists. Meir Javedanfar has written about Muqtada’s extraordinary rebuke of Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei.

Michael Weiss is the New York Editor of PJ Media. His blog is Snarksmith.

Michael Weiss is a senior editor of Tablet Magazine and a culture blogger for The New Criterion. He also writes occasionally for Slate, The Weekly Standard, City Journal, The New York Daily News and Standpoint.
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