Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Najaf Bloodbath Averted? 

Muqtada al-Sadr has reportedly offered to disarm the Madhi Army and quit the Imam Ali shrine if the surrounding U.S. and Iraqi forces will agree to a truce. Details here.

UPDATE: The New York Times reports that the escalation of hostilities in Najaf was the result of a local decision made by ground forces:
Acting without the approval of the Pentagon or senior Iraqi officials, the Marine officers said in recent interviews, they turned a firefight with Mr. Sadr's forces on Thursday, Aug. 5, into a eight-day pitched battle, one fought out in deadly skirmishes in an ancient cemetery that brought them within rifle shot of the Imam Ali Mosque, Shiite Islam's holiest shrine. Eventually, fresh Army units arrived from Baghdad and took over Marine positions near the mosque, but by then the politics of war had taken over and the American force had lost the opportunity to storm Mr. Sadr's fighters around the mosque . . . .

The Najaf battle has also raised fresh questions about an age-old rivalry within the American military - between the no-holds-barred, press-ahead culture of the Marines and the slower, more reserved and often more politically cautious approach of the Army. Army-Marine tensions also have surfaced previously, notably when the Marines opened the Falluja offensive.

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