BOB ABERNETHY, anchor: More now on the situation in Iraq from Professor Akbar Ahmed, a Muslim, a former Pakistani diplomat, and now a professor of Islamic studies at the American University in Washington. His latest book is ISLAM UNDER SIEGE.
Professor, welcome. What role did religion -- Shiite Islamic religion -- play in both the fighting for three weeks in Najaf and then in the cease-fire?
Dr. AKBAR AHMED (Chair of Islamic Studies and Professor of International Relations, American University): A major role, both on the ground and in religious symbolism -- Moktada al-Sadr -- by moving from Baghdad to Najaf.
ABERNETHY: This is the young cleric?
Dr. AHMED: The young cleric. And then hiding, situating himself in the mosque of Ali, who is one of the most revered figures in the entire Muslim world, particularly for Shias, clearly identified that this was going to be a battle for Islam -- the sense of Muslims being under siege.
ABERNETHY: And then Ayatollah al-Sistani came back at what appears to be just the right time and work[ed] out a deal. How was he able to do that?
Dr. AHMED: Again, great moral authority. Ayatollah arrives -- the Grand Ayatollah -- there is a war situation: two armies in conflict. And, by sheer willpower, his moral authority, he forces a truce, a peace upon them.