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Moktada al-Sadr is back in Iraq

After spending several years in Iran training to be a better Shiite scholar, Moktada al-Sadr is returning to Iraq, according to this New York Times article

In his early days, he was often derided as too young, even dimwitted, and his physical appearance — he is squat and pudgy — did little to inspire confidence. The man who appeared on Wednesday had aged, with gray streaking his beard, and he seemed to stride with more confidence. In recent public statements, it appears that he has overcome the awkwardness he displayed in 2003. He now delivers his speeches in a refined, if simple and deliberate Arabic.

It seems too early to assess whether this is “good” or “bad” for the United States.  But it is certainly important.

At the very least, Mr. Sadr becomes one of the few national leaders with the grass-roots support to compete with Mr. Maliki, whom Mr. Sadr’s supporters had derided only recently as an heir to Saddam Hussein and an American lackey. Mr. Sadr’s support for the prime minister came with a high price: hundreds of his followers were released from prison, and the movement was given leadership of a province, positions in the security forces and control of some ministries.


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