Using words to ward off a promised government attack, Muqtada al Sadr said he was evacuating the Imam Ali shrine. But all he did was get most of the weapons and armed men out, while leaving hundreds of unarmed followers. Sadr's followers refused to allow the police in, and tried to turn over the keys to the shrine over aides to senior Shia cleric Sistani. But Sistani's people refused to take responsibility for the shrine while Sadrs gunmen still surround the complex. There were several clashes between American troops and Sadr's gunmen on the 21st, while more fighting was heard overnight. U.S. troops are destroying groups of Sadr gunmen around the shrine, which would make it easier for Iraqi assault troops to go into the shrine complex and take over.
Sadr is playing political games with the government, as he insists that the Americans are really running things and what the country needs is a government run by clerics like himself, and no foreign troops in the country. Most Iraqis don't trust operators like Sadr. Surveys show that, while most Iraqis agree with Sadr on getting foreign troops out, they also want the foreign troops to stay until gangs like Sadr's can be disarmed.