Soon afterwards, Sistani's representatives announced a peace agreement with Sadr's forces.
The five points appear to be:
- Najaf and Kufa to be declared weapons-free cities
- All armed forces to withdraw from Najaf ( Sadr's withdrawl in exchange for amnesty?)
- Iraqi local police take charge of security
- The government to compensate the victims whose businesses and homes were damaged in the fighting
- A census to be taken to prepare for elections expected in the country by January.
It appears that the agreement Sistani and Sadr made may also be contingent on previous statements by Allawi promising amnesty and safe passage if Sadr and his followers left the shrine and disarmed. In this case, the devil may be in the details. It's not just the terms of the peace treaty, but how they're carried out.
"We hope to hear from the Iraqi government a certain declaration, and this is part of the solution to the crisis. The atmosphere is positive ... and the crisis is about to be resolved." -- a spokesman for Sistani.
What we seem to have on the table then is an agreement similar to the one that Sadr approved a week ago, but that the Iraqi government refused to accept.
The Iraqi government stubbornly refused last week's peace treaty, and as a result hundreds were killed and wounded and the historic center of Najaf was turned into a bombed-out war zone. I don't think the Allawi government will dare to be as stubborn this time around, however. It's one thing for Allawi to flout democracy by ignoring the Iraqi National Conference, which he seems to view as a meaningless Duma, and another thing entirely to for him to ignore Iraq's most powerful spiritual leader.
In other words, Allawi will strengthen the theocracy, not the democracy... oh, and he'll be discrediting his own government by accepting financial responsibility for the damages and victims. Something tells me that US taxpayers will pick up the tab, however.
As one of those who made the march on the shrine said:
"God is great. This is democracy, this is the new Iraq, this is the greatest defeat we could have inflicted on the Americans. It's the most beautiful day in my life."
He then hurried inside the mausoleum to pray.
*Update* - Aha! Confirmed! Amnesty was/is part of the deal -- really two deals rolled into one -- and since Sadr faces possible murder charges, he probably wants it in writing... and may want some assurances from Sistani that he'll hold Allawi to his word.
"Bassam said that while the language of the agreement was being drawn up, disarmament of al-Sadr's militia and withdrawal by coalition forces were among the conditions.
Al-Sistani wants Najaf to be a ``demilitarized zone'' and is urging al-Sadr and his militiamen to disarm and take advantage of interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's offer of amnesty, said Bassam."
The last week's killing has been all about Sadr wanting a pardon on a murder rap and Allawi not wanting to give him one. Bad call for Allawi, who walks away weaker and with a lot of blood on his hands. I wouldn't have expected anything less from Sadr though, who suffers yet another tactical defeat and yet another strategic victory. He who fights and runs away...
Also, I updated the terms of the agreement once I had confirmation on exactly what they were. Most interestingly, it includes demands for a census followed by elections in January. This is something that Sistani fought for previously, but which was refused by the US, and it will completely change the way a democratically elected government in Iraq looks. It also guarantees an election which many people speculated would be delayed yet again.