US Forces Talking With Sadr's Army

Dialogue with radical group represents a reverse face
By Sam Gale Rosen,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 12, 2007 9:14 AM CDT
Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, left, steps from an office building in Najaf, Iraq Saturday June 5, 2004. Iraq's most powerful Shiite militia leader is turning to his commanders who distinguished themselves...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – US officials are holding their noses and negotiating with the Mahdi Army, the Shiite militia loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr, the LA Times reports. The US has held a hard line against the radical cleric, but analysts say that the military has grudgingly accepted that the Mahdi Army is currently holding most of the cards in Baghdad's power struggle.

"Some of this is a little bit distasteful," General Petraeus said of the collaboration in his testimony to Congress on Monday. The militia finds talks with Americans equally distasteful, and still won't admit to them on the record. The negotiations—which started secretly in 2006—led to the two-week cease-fire by the Mahdi Army, and relative peace in large sections of Baghdad.