Iraq: May 27, 2004

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Muqtada al Sadr's gunmen continued to withdraw from Najaf, as al Sadr tried to make a deal that would get the murder charges against him dropped. A ceasefire agreement has been negotiated with al Sadr, with the help of members of the Iraqi Governing Council. In most of the areas that al Sadrs gunmen took over in April, the gunmen are dead or gone, and the Iraqi government and police are back in control. 

Over a hundred of al Sadr's men have been killed by coalition troops in the last few days, with few coalition casualties. This has been demoralizing for the al Sadr gunmen. The American troops are especially scary, with their use of UAVs, snipers and tanks. No matter what the al Sadr men do, the Americans seem to know where they are, and what they are up to. Show yourself, and an American sniper gets you. Try and shoot it out with the Americans, and they tend to hit you with their first shot. Fortify a building, and an American smart bomb hits it, and leaves neighboring buildings intact. Al Sadr's men receive more scorn than help from other Iraqi Shia, even though al Sadr had a lot of popular support in Najaf. The shrinking popular support, and continued pressure by the senior Shia clergy to get out of the Najaf shrines and mosques have put al Sadr in a difficult position. Even having his men fire at some of the Najaf shrines, and then blaming it on the Americans, didn't work. His chief lieutenant was captured yesterday and there is a feeling that the walls are closing in. They are.

In Fallujah, the Baath Party thugs with guns have been replaced by Sunni clergy armed with religion. The civil government, which was driven out by the armed gangs, has not been able to take power. Instead, most neighborhoods are taking orders from the clergy in the local mosque. Fallujah always had the largest number of mosques and clergy per capita in the Sunni parts of Iraq. This is what made Fallujah a hospitable place for al Qaeda. US Marines have allowed the "Fallujah Brigade" to patrol the city, with occasional visits by marine patrols. While this has kept Fallujah quiet, the city is still a base for armed groups opposed to the Iraqi government and coalition troops. Fighting still takes place outside of Fallujah.

 

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