October 11, 2004


Rebels Loyal to Shiite Cleric Begin Handing In Arms in Iraq (EDWARD WONG, 10/11/04, NY Times)

Militiamen loyal to a firebrand Shiite cleric began turning in heavy weapons today in Baghdad as the first step of a peace offer with the interim government and the American military.

Three police stations in the vast slum of Sadr City, where support runs highest for the cleric, Moktada al-Sadr, collected hundreds of rocket-propelled grenades, mortar rounds and other arms. Militiamen were paid for their weapons. The payments sometimes amounted to hundreds of dollars.

The weapons buyback program is scheduled to run through Friday.

In an interview at an American base on the edge of Sadr City, Col. Robert B. Abrams, commander of the First Brigade of the First Cavalry Division, charged with controlling the volatile neighborhood, said he was "cautiously optimistic" about the Sadr organization's efforts, despite the fact that Mr. Sadr and his fighters violated truces several times over the summer.

"He has a stated agenda at this point to enter the political arena in this country," Colonel Abrams said. "If he were to bring his militia back together, he knows he'll never have that chance again."

The colonel said that at the end of the week, his officers and Iraqi security forces will make a final tally of the amount of heavy weapons turned in, then give feedback to Mr. Sadr's aides. After that, he said, his soldiers will work with the Iraqi police and national guard to conduct searches throughout Sadr City to root out anyone who still possesses illegal weapons. According to Iraqi law, each household is allowed to have one AK-47 per adult male.

Patience rewarded.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 11, 2004 2:07 PM

Several hundred American dollars to an Iraqi, plus an opportunity not to get shot at by American forces, is quite a windfall.

Hopefully some of them will use the money to open up ice-cream stands, or kabab carts, and thereby prosper.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at October 12, 2004 7:42 AM