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Iraq Shiite Factions Sign Deal To End ‘Rivalry’

From a deeply saddened Associated Press:

 

Radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr (L) and powerful politician Abdel Aziz al-Hakim (R) have signed a deal aimed at ending months of deadly rivalry.

Pact could end violence between Shiite factions

October 7, 2007

Pact could end violence between Shiite factions

Two of Iraq’s most powerful Shi’ite leaders have agreed to end a bitter rivalry in a bid to end months of armed clashes and assassinations in the oil-rich south that have threatened to spread into a wider conflict.

Radical Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the largest Shi’ite political party, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, promised yesterday to stop the bloodshed and enhance cooperation between their two movements.

An official in al-Sadr’s office in the holy city of Najaf called the agreement a “fresh start”.

Internal rivalries have been rising in recent months, particularly in the southern Shi’ite heartland where factions have been vying for power as the British military has pulled back to a base at the Basra airport.

The three-point agreement appeared to be aimed at reining in rival militants loyal to al-Sadr and al-Hakim before the fighting erupts into a full-fledged conflict that could shatter the relative unity of the Shi’ite-led governing apparatus.

It also comes as mainstream politicians from Iraq’s majority sect have been trying to bring al-Sadr back into the fold after his loyalists pulled out of the main Shi’ite bloc last month.

The Sadrists’ pullout left the United Iraqi Alliance, which includes al-Hakim’s SIIC, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Dawa party and some independents, with only 85 seats – a dramatic drop for an alliance that once held 130 seats in the 275-member parliament.

Sadrist politician Nassar al-Rubaie said the agreement did not change the movement’s political opposition to al-Maliki’s beleaguered government but was aimed at “preventing clashes between the two groups and reducing the violence hitting the country”.

“We have agreed to from joint committees to investigate any friction and to determine the reasons and the people behind it,” he said.

“The success of this agreement will mean less bloodshed.”

A copy of the agreement, signed by both leaders, was shown on the Shi’ite Al-Forat television station.

The principles outlined included “the necessity of protecting and respecting Iraqi blood regardless of the situation or sect,” mobilising all Islamic and cultural institutions on both sides “to maintain friendly feelings and to avoid hatred” and to establish provincial committees aimed at keeping order.

The Mahdi Army militia, which is nominally loyal to al-Sadr, and the armed wing of al-Hakim’s party known as the Badr Brigade face longstanding rivalries and frequently have clashed since Saddam Hussein’s Sunni-dominated regime was ousted in 2003.

Tensions boiled over this summer with the assassination of two provincial governors belonging to SIIC, the targeting of al-Sadr lieutenants and even the shooting deaths of several aides to Iraq’s pre-eminent Shi’ite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

A turning point appeared to have been in August when deadly street battles broke out between militia fighters in the holy city of Karbala, killing dozens of people during a major Shi’ite religious festival.

Trying to do damage control, al-Sadr announced a “freeze” of his militia activities for up to six months to allow for its restructuring. However, it is unclear how much control the youthful cleric maintains over his fighters as groups have splintered from the main movement.

The US military has welcomed al-Sadr’s call for his fighters to stand down but says it will continue targeting so-called rogue elements it believes are being trained and funded by Iran…

Of course neither the “surge” nor any of the defeats al-Sadr has received at the hands of the US military have anything to do with this.

And also we can be sure that this giant step forward in political reconciliation will not be enough to place the “defeat at any price” Democrats.

This article was posted by Steve on Sunday, October 7th, 2007. Comments are currently closed.

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