This just in. Thanks go out to reader Odis, working in Baghdad, who has forwarded me a scanned flyer purportedly from Muqtada al-Sadr calling for an end to the fighting that has killed at least 42 Coalition troops and hundreds of Iraqis this week.
The translation is roughly as follows:
To Iman Mahdi, the officers of Hawza and the followers of Muqtada al-Sadr and all Muslims.
Previously, we had requested the exit of all American occupation forces from our country and the establishment of an Islamic country. But after the aggression on us by the American Zionist forces, we asked for the release of Sheikh Yacoubi and the restoration of the license four our newspaper. They (AF) confronted us with fire and an uncivilized reply. A lot of our Sunni and Shi’a sons and brothers have been martyred. We have been informed that a bad group of people interfered in your groups and are making conflicts between our groups. They tried to steal stuff from the government offices and banks of the country. They shut the doors of the universities and schools in order to badly affect the image of Islam and Muslims and the Al Mahdi Army.
We do not fear the American Army forces and the statements of Bremer and Kimmitt. After interventions from a number of religious leaders, Iraqi figures and heads of the tribes, we (the office of sayed Muqtada al-Sadr) have decided to stop the military confrontation and demonstrations; not to make trouble for the innocent people; not to invade anything which is prohibited by religion; and to catch the bad elements mentioned and get them to the Hawza offices.
We are still asking and requesting the release of all detained people and to reopen our newspaper (the al-Hawza newspaper). We will remain peacefully inside the mosque of Al Kufa after the prayer of Jumma on Friday (the 19th of Safar, year 1425 of the Islamic calendar). All other Believers and brothers in all Governorates should prepare themselves to do the same to prevent the enemies of Islam from interfering or entering our group.
17th of Safar year 1425 sealed with the seal of the office of the sayed, the martyr
I’ve had this translation looked at by an Iraqi friend of mine from Baghdad and he made a few corrections, but the translation is pretty much the same. He also says that the flyer looks genuine.
There are also reports that talks are underway between the Iraqi Governing Council and al-Sadr on ending the fighting. This flyer could be seen as evidence the talks are succeeding. We’ll have to see if the fighting dies down in the next few days, and if al-Sadr’s followers stay in the mosque on Friday.
Whether al-Sadr’s standing down will be enough is open to question, however. In short, al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army isn’t the only gang around, despite White House and CPA assertions.
United States forces are confronting a broad-based Shiite uprising that goes well beyond supporters of one militant Islamic cleric who has been the focus of American counterinsurgency efforts, United States intelligence officials said Wednesday.
[I]ntelligence officials now say that there is evidence that the insurgency goes beyond Mr. Sadr and his militia, and that a much larger number of Shiites have turned against the American-led occupation of Iraq, even if they are not all actively aiding the uprising.
A year ago, many Shiites rejoiced at the American invasion and the toppling of Saddam Hussein, a Sunni who had brutally repressed the Shiites for decades. But American intelligence officials now believe that hatred of the American occupation has spread rapidly among Shiites, and is now so large that Mr. Sadr and his forces represent just one element..
Meanwhile, American intelligence has not yet detected signs of coordination between the Sunni rebellion in Iraq’s heartland and the Shiite insurgency. But United States intelligence says that the Sunni rebellion also goes far beyond former Baathist government members. Sunni tribal leaders, particularly in Al Anbar Province, home to Ramadi, the provincial capital, and Falluja, have turned against the United States and are helping to lead the Sunni rebellion, intelligence officials say.
The result is that the United States is facing two broad-based insurgencies that are now on parallel tracks.
Juan Cole, as usual, has a good roundup of the fighting.
Things are moving very quickly in Iraq as the violence shows no sign of ebbing. This is _not_ just scattered fighting. And it will probably get worse as word gets out about the attacks on two mosques yesterday.
Specifically, though, a U.S. military helicopter and F-16 fighter jet attacked the Abdel-Aziz al-Samarrai mosque in Fallujah with missiles and a laser-guided bomb. As Stratfor says, “Damage reports have been conflicting.” In another incident in Fallujah, insurgents fired RPGs at the minarets of the the al-Muadidi mosque after it was seized by U.S. Marines.
The attacks on the mosques are major tactical blunders on the part of the Americans. These attacks will strengthen the resolve of the Shi’ite fighters, the Sunni resistance and undercut the U.S. claims among the world’s Muslims that the war in Iraq is not an attack on Islam itself. Don’t get me wrong: I _don’t_ think the U.S. is at war with Islam — I think its trying to send a message to insurgents that no place is safe for them. And I understand the tactical necessity of going after guys who are shooting you, regardless of where they are. So I’m not blaming the troops. But Al-Sadr planned for this when he fled his Kufa mosque saying he wanted to ensure that the “sacred site of the mosque (would) not be violated.” He knew the Americans would have to enter mosques and he knew that when they did, it will bring more followers to his side. Let’s hope the flyer is truly a call to stand down, for everyone’s sake.
In other news, Iraqi interior minister Nouri Badran, a Shi’a, resigned, much to the surprised of American officials.
“I heard reports that Ambassador Bremer was unhappy with my performance, so I went to see him and asked if it was true,” Badran told a surprised news conference, according to _Reuters_.
“He said that the problem was that the interior and the defence ministers could not both be Shi’ite… So from now I am resigning my position and I hope that by my decision, balance will be restored to the ministries in Iraq,” he added.
Badran’s resignation comes after almost a week of fighting in Iraq.
“We regret Minister of Interior Nouri Badran’s decision to resign,” said Bremer and IGC member Massoud Barzani in a joint statement. “He has served with skill and courage in a difficult position at a difficult time. He deserves the thanks of the Iraqi people, and he certainly has ours.
“The Ministry of Interior is a key institution, responsible for handling the internal security threats and law enforcement challenges Iraq faces. As we have seen in recent days, Interior Ministry forces are often on the front line in responding to terrorism and insurrection.”
(And in some cases, if the stories are to be believed, turning on their American patrons when the firefights begin.)
Also, three Japanese — two aid workers and a journalist — have been taken hostage by a group calling itself _Saraya al-Mujahadin_, who have threatened to kill them unless Japan withdraws its troops from Iraq within three days. Eight South Koreans were also held hostage by “Iraqi resistance fighters” and one was released.