NAJAF UPDATE….Via Atrios, Polly Toynbee in the Guardian suggests that UN negotiator Lakhdar Brahimi is about to throw in the towel:

Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN special representative, was sent to Iraq to ease the passage to democracy much against his will. With his arm twisted by Kofi Annan and George Bush, he reluctantly agreed but warned of the risk of ensnaring the UN in this ill-fated US/UK adventure….Now, according to Tony Blair’s close advisers, he is about to walk away from Iraq, leaving Britain and America alone to stew after June 30.

On the other hand, Juan Cole links to a Radio Free Europe piece reporting that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is happy with Brahimi’s transition proposals:

[UN spokesman Fred] Eckhard said al-Hakim told Brahimi that al-Sistani was “pleased and found the proposals balanced and positive.” Eckhard said Brahimi and Iraqi officials spoke about “various aspects of the transition.”

It appears to be mostly in our hands now. Brahimi needs agreement from us, of course, but it also appears that his plans can succeed only if we resolve the violence in Najaf and put an end to Muqtada al-Sadr’s insurgency. Cole indicates that this depends on whether we’re willing to negotiate with Muqtada. From az-Zaman:

The Coalition and Muqtada al-Sadr exchanged letters via mediators during the past thirty-six hours, which may be fateful. Signs of flexibility were apparent in Muqtada’s response to ending the crisis, assuming that the American side would accept negotiations on the basis of his spokesman, Qais al-Khazali. At the same time, the new American-appointed governor of Najaf intimated that there is a possibility that any criminal proceedings against Muqtada al-Sadr may be suspended if his militia stood down, disarmed, and left Najaf.

As always, Prof. Cole has more, and you should read his entire post. It appears there may be room for some cautious optimism at this point.

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