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AP Hopes Al-Sadr Will End 6 Month Ceasefire

From the ever optimistic Associated Press:

People shop for books in the holy Shiite city of Najaf, Iraq, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2008 by the portrait at right,of a radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Al-Sadr threatens to end cease-fire

By QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA, Associated Press Writer

BAGHDAD – Anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr may let a six-month cease-fire expire as soon as Saturday, a move that could send his Shiite militia fighters back out on the streets and jeopardize recent security gains that have led to a sharp decline in violence…

Al-Sadr’s Shiite Mahdi Army is among the most powerful militias in Iraq, and the cease-fire he ordered last August has been credited with helping reduce violence around Iraq by 60 percent or more in the past six months.

Sheik Salah al-Obeidi, a spokesman for al-Sadr in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, said that if the cleric failed to issue a statement by Saturday saying that the cease-fire was extended, “then that means the freeze is over.” Al-Sadr’s followers would be free to resume attacks.

On an Internet site representing al-Sadr, al-Obeidi said that al-Sadr “either will announce the extension or will stay silent and not announce anything. If stays silent, that means that the freeze is over.”

Al-Obeidi said that message “has been conveyed to all Mahdi Army members nationwide.”

Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, a military spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement that the cease-fire declared by al-Sadr’s last August was good for the Iraqi people.

“Al-Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr’s cease-fire has been helpful in reducing violence and has led to improved security in Iraq. We would welcome the extension of the cease-fire as a positive step,” he said, using an honorific reserved for descendants of the Prophet Muhammad.

While the U.S. has welcomed the cease-fire, it also has insisted on continuing to stage raids against what it calls Iranian-backed breakaway factions of the Mahdi Army militia — moves that have angered the cleric’s followers.

Influential members of al-Sadr’s movement said earlier this month they had urged the radical cleric to call off the cease-fire, which initially was set to expire at the end of the month.

Al-Sadr’s followers have claimed the U.S.-Iraqi raids, particularly in the southern Shiite cities of Diwaniyah, Basra and Karbala, are a pretext to crack down on the wider movement, which has pulled its support for the Washington-backed government.

A Sunni parliament member, Asmaa al-Dulaimi, said if the truce were broken it would hurt the prospects for national reconciliation and “further deteriorate the security situation nationwide.”

“Resuming their activities, whether against the government or civilians, will lead to a new confrontation with them,” she said…

Again we see the media’s fondest wishes masquerading as a news story.

Re-read the article. There is nothing in the entire piece to support the headline: “Al-Sadr threatens to end cease-fire.”

Like so much of this campaign season, this is based on nothing but hope.

This article was posted by Steve on Wednesday, February 20th, 2008. Comments are currently closed.

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