From Detriot Free Press: Cleric tells militia not to attack U.S. troops.
Radical Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has ordered his militia not to confront U.S. forces and has endorsed negotiations aimed at easing the deployment of American troops in his strongholds, according to Shi'ite and Sadr officials.
Ahead of a planned surge of 21,500 U.S. troops intended to secure Baghdad, the cleric has instructed his Mahdi Army, recently described by the Pentagon as the single biggest threat to a stable Iraq, to keep a low profile and stay off the streets, Sadr officials said.
A deal with the supporters of the fiercely anti-American cleric would temper U.S. military commanders' concern that any attempt to secure Baghdad will inevitably lead to a showdown with Iraq's biggest private army.
The Sadrist movement has given its blessing to an initiative led by one of two mayors of Sadr City to negotiate terms under which U.S. forces will be able to deploy freely there.
If the negotiations succeed, U.S. forces would be welcome in Sadr City, said Rahim al-Daraji, the mayor of the area's southern half. He said he has been authorized to negotiate on behalf of the Mahdi Army and other Shi'ite factions.
Iraq's prime minister said Wednesday he's sure Iran is behind some attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq and he won't allow his country to be a battleground for the two nations.
"We have told the Iranians and the Americans, 'We know that you have a problem with each other, but we are asking you, please solve your problems outside Iraq,' " Nuri al-Maliki told CNN.
"We will not accept Iran to use Iraq to attack the American forces," al-Maliki said Wednesday in an exclusive interview with CNN. (Read more of al-Maliki interview)
"We don't want the American forces to take Iraq as a field to attack Iran or Syria," he added.
Asked about the role of Iran in Iraq, al-Maliki said he was confident that Iranian influence was behind attacks on U.S. forces. "It exists, and I assure you it exists," he said.
Iranian-U.S. tensions have been ratcheted up recently, with two U.S. officials theorizing about the possibility that Iran was involved in a January 20 attack that killed five U.S. soldiers.
Two officials from separate U.S. government agencies said Tuesday the Pentagon is investigating whether the attack on a military compound in Karbala was carried out by Iranians or Iranian-trained operatives.
Posted by Forkum at January 31, 2007 07:24 PM