Muqtada al-Sadr Returns to Iraq

Anti-American cleric's political influence rising
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 6, 2011 11:33 AM CST
Muqtada al-Sadr Returns to Iraq
Supporters of anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr gather outside his home in the Shiite city of Najaf, Iraq, Thursday, Jan. 6, 2011.   (AP Photo/Alaa al-Marjani)

Muqtada al-Sadr—the radical Shiite cleric whose militia was involved in some of the bloodiest battles of the Iraq war—returned to Iraq today, after almost four years of self-imposed exile in Iran. Sadr finds himself with newfound political influence, after throwing his party’s weight behind Nouri al-Maliki, and his return raises questions about US influence in the country, the Washington Post reports.

Many fear the anti-American cleric may return to using violence to assert his will. “That’s what everybody is holding their breath about,” says a former official says. But the State Department says it won’t oppose Sadr’s political rise. “What happens with him going forward is a matter for him and the government of Iraq,” a spokesman said. “It is not for us to be for or against any particular leader or party in Iraq.” (More Muqtada al-Sadr stories.)

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