Now that hudna has come to Najaf and all is peaceful, it is most interesting to note that Al-Sadr has not made clear exactly to what he has agreed. That way, of course, he has a pretext to resume fighting whenever he wishes, and believes himself strong enough. In traditional Islamic law, Muslim forces may only agree to a truce in order to gather strength to fight again more effectively. From the New York Times:
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Aug. 18 – Displaying the brinkmanship that has made him one of the United States’ most powerful adversaries in Iraq, the rebel cleric Moktada al-Sadr sent last-minute messages of conciliation on Wednesday that appeared to have staved off an imminent assault on his fortress in the country’s holiest Shiite shrine.
For two weeks, Mr. Sadr has led his militia force, known as the Mahdi Army, in some of the deadliest fighting with American troops since the invasion 16 months ago. But faced with a deadline of hours from Iraq’s interim government to back down or face attack by Iraqi troops, he abruptly signaled a change of course, and suggested he would accept demands to vacate Imam Ali shrine in Najaf, disband his militia and transform it into a political party.
Not for the first time in his months of confrontation with American troops, Mr. Sadr’s apparent backing down came hedged with uncertainties, among them that he spoke only through aides, and that they were vague on what exactly he had agreed to. One of his spokesmen in Najaf told news agencies that Mr. Sadr was insisting, before any concessions, on a cease-fire that would require American and Iraqi troops to pull back from positions around the shrine, a move that would yield territory won in recent days.
Meanwhile, fighting continued in Najaf and the Shiite stronghold of Sadr City in Baghdad, killing two Americans.