Thursday, January 6, 2011

Radical cleric Al-Sadr back in Iraq after absence of four years

The radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, the lader of the Sadrist Movement in Iraq, yesterday unexpectedly returned to his home in the holy city of Najaf, after an absence of four years. Al-Sadr was greeted by hundeds of people. One of the first he did was to pay a visit to the shrine of imam Ali, the nephew and son in law of thje profet Mohammed. 

Sadr’s permission to return appears to be a reward to him by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki for his support of the new government, and a form of amnesty to him for his past rebellions against the Iraqi government and the US troops. The US deeply distrusts Sadr, who is among the most anti-imperialist Muslim leaders in the Middle East.
 Juan Cole quotes the newspaper Al-Zaman, which  reported that Sadr agreed to support Nuri al-Maliki for a second term as prime minister in September as a result of a fatwa or considered legal ruling issued by Grand Ayatollah Kazim al-Haeri, who lives in exile in Qom, Iran. However, the real reason behind all this is of course that Iran put lots  of pressure behind the formation of the present goverment, which came into being in December after some nine months of political impasse.
The Sadrists have 39 of the 325 seats in the present parliament. They got seven ministerial positions, but no key posts. The posts  include Housing, Labor, Water Resources,  Minister of State  for Tourism and Antiquities, and two ministers.
Sadr spent four years in Iran finishing his seminary studies, but he had remained active in politics during this time, sometimes visiting Arab capitals. He had been in conflict with al-Maliki since 2007, when he withdrew from the government because al-Maliki would not set a timetable for US troop withdrawal. The confliuct deepened after Al Maliki launched a series of military strikes against Sadr’s militia, which lasted several months in 2008.

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