Muqtada al-Sadr Returns From Exile
Muqtada al-Sadr is back in Iraq.
Radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr appeared in public for the first time in months on Friday, delivering a fiery anti-American sermon to thousands of followers and demanding U.S. troops leave
It was not immediately clear why he chose to return now to his base in the Shiite holy city of Najaf from
Iran. His speech had new nationalist overtones, calling on Sunnis to join with him in the fight against the U.S. presence. He also criticized the government’s inability to provide reliable services to its people.
Al-Sadr’s reappearance, four months after he went underground at the start of the U.S.-led Baghdad security crackdown, came just hours before his Mahdi Army militia lost its top commander in the southern city of Basra in a gunbattle with British soldiers, Iraqi police said.
The 33-year-old al-Sadr is believed to be honing plans to consolidate political gains and foster ties with Iran — and possibly trying to take advantage of the absence of a major rival, Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq leader Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, who was recently diagnosed with lung cancer and went to Iran for treatment.
Whatever his reasons, it’s unlikely to be good news.