Sadr back in Iraq

Radical anti-U.S. Cleric returns from exile

Moktada al-Sadr, the radical Shiite cleric whose militia displayed the toughest resistance against the American military, returned to Iraq on Wednesday following a three-year exile to cries of “long live the leader!” Sadr’s militant movement fractured following his self-imposed exile to the holy city of Qum in Iran in 2007, when his militia was defeated and divided. But in the 2009 local elections, they made an impressive comeback and proved to be shrewd political negotiators. Sadr is said to be the only viable opponent to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. His arrival in Iraq was eerily reminiscent of Ayatollah Khomeini’s triumphant return to Tehran following Iran’s Islamic Revolution. Whether he stays in Iraq long enough to become the leader his followers are hoping for is uncertain. At the very least, Sadr’s return to Iraq is an event that will certainly complicate Iraqi democracy, its stability already fragile in its infancy.

New York Times

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