Since early April, U.S. commanders in Iraq have been vowing to "kill or capture" the renegade cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Now, they appear to be backing off of that promise.The Times is reporting that American forces and Sadr's guerillas have struck a deal to end the fighting in the holy cities of Najaf and Kufa.
The agreement, hammered out between Mr. Sadr and Iraqi leaders and approved by the Americans, calls for [Sadr's] Mahdi Army, whose fighters have held the city since April 5, to put away their guns and go home, and for the American forces to pull most of their forces out of the city. Under the agreement, the Americans can maintain a handful of posts inside the city and may still run patrols through the city center...In a major concession to Mr. Sadr, the Americans and Iraqi officials promised to suspend the arrest warrant issued against him for his suspected involvement in the murder of a rival cleric in April 2003...In a news conference today, the Americans and the Iraqis said Mr. Sadr's fate was open to negotiation. Some Shiite leaders said plans were in the works to offer Mr. Sadr or people around him positions in the new government, scheduled to take over when the Americans transfer sovereignty here on June 30. (emphasis mine)