Sunday, May 20, 2007

Report: Sadr reaching out to Sunnis, purging extremists, distancing from Maliki

Where's Sadr?: The US military says Sadr has left Iraq for Iran. Sadr's aides deny this, as does Tehran, but it has been months since Sadr appeared in public or attended prayers at his mosque outside Kufa. In April, 2004, the Coalition Provisional Authority issued an arrest warrant, alleging his involvement in a homicide, and U.S. military commanders expressed an intention to "capture or kill" him. No action was ever taken on the arrest warrant, which may still be in effect.

NAJAF, Iraq -- The movement of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has embarked on one of its most dramatic tactical shifts since the beginning of the war.

The 33-year-old populist is reaching out to a broad array of Sunni leaders, from politicians to insurgents, and purging extremist members of his Mahdi Army militia who target Sunnis. Sadr's political followers are distancing themselves from the fragile Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, which is widely criticized as corrupt, inefficient and biased in favor of Iraq's majority Shiites. And moderates are taking up key roles in Sadr's movement, professing to be less anti-American and more nationalist as they seek to improve Sadr's image and position him in the middle of Iraq's ideological spectrum.

"We want to aim the guns against the occupation and al-Qaeda, not between Iraqis," Ahmed Shaibani, 37, a cleric who leads Sadr's newly formed reconciliation committee, said as he sat inside Sadr's heavily guarded compound here.

Read the rest at the Washington Post

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