Friday, 25 May 2007

Sadr gone good?

A man so often despised for inflaming Iraq's civil war with his extremist Shia Mahdi Army has softened up. At his first public appearance in months, Moqtada al-Sadr agreed to a peace plan and talks with Sunni moderates in a bid for stability to Iraq. He still, however, emphasized the fight needed against the American(-led) occupation, by Sunnis and Shias alike.

...the cleric urged his followers to use peaceful means of opposition.

The cleric's brand of nationalism and populism has made him a popular figure among Iraq's Shia Muslims, but it is not clear why he has chosen this moment to return.

Moqtada Sadr is one of the most important players in Iraq's complex sectarian and political mosaic, says the BBC's security correspondent Rob Watson.

One theory for his return is a desire to re-assert control over his militia, which is reported to be increasingly fragmented.

Mr Sadr may also see a chance to strengthen his position in the absence of his great Shia rival Abdul Aziz Hakim, who has left Iraq for medical treatment, our correspondent says.

Sadr is a powerful Muslim cleric, and as this most recent revelation has emphasized, he is as unpredictable as he is radical. A while back he was believed by some to have left Iraq for Iran.

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