This article -- which describes in detail how it was announced that Sadr accepted interim conference terms -- seems to indicate that the Allawi government may have tried to block the peace process. In it, Rajaa Habib al-Khuzai, a former member of Iraq's governing council and a member of interim conference's delegation to Sadr yesterday, said that "The mediation did not fail. On the contrary, it was a success. The meeting was positive." She also denounced threats by the defence minister of an imminent offensive, saying: "It is regrettable because there was an agreement this morning."
In many ways, Sadr's acceptance is no surprise. Yesterday, a spokesman for Sadr described the terms offered by the interim conference as "very positive" and welcomed continued talks, but wanted a ceasefire first, supposedly for security reasons. The Iraqi government refused a ceasefire, however, and used Sadr's failure to meet in person with the interim conference's spokesmen as justification for preparing a final attack.
The peace proposals being offered by the interim conference and the government are as different as night and day. While the government wanted unconditional surrender, the interim council called for agreement to three main points:
1> Sadr's forces withdraw from the Imam Ali mosque and Najaf.
2> Sadr disarms his forces and becomes a political party.
3> Sadr and his followers are granted complete amnesty from future prosecution.
Frankly, these are the best terms that Sadr has ever been offered. Not only would he get his ceasefire, he will also get amnesty from prosecution for the murder of Abdul Majid al-Khoei, which the government has warrants of arrest for. Arguably, the amnesty terms may even apply to Sadr's follwers who are already in prison, and could lead to a large release of inmates from Iraqi jails.
So, at this moment, Sadr has backed down and appears to be cooperating... but is this what the Iraqi government wanted? I don't know about that. They still haven't accepted Sadr's offer. The pressure is on them to do so, however. I suspect they will begrudgingly give in, but there will have to be more talks first, and complete amnesty for Sadr and his followers will be a bitter pill to swallow.