Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Muqtada al-Sadr now a Grand Ayatollah?

Thus reports al-Sharq al-Awsat, via AKI - which also reports that Muqtada will now return to Iraq "to resume his religious leadership."

This is potentially a huge deal, especially if Sunni groups like al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) or groups affiliated with Baathist remnants continue their recent attacks on Shiites and the Baghdad government's security forces either fail to stem them, or if Muqtada's thousands of supporters in Baghdad and Iraq's south feel that those forces (which consist largely of members of a rival Shiite militia, the Badr Organization) are not being zealous enough in protecting them. Muqtada's militia, the Mahdi Army, has been standing down for months; indeed, he claimed to have dissolved it, keeping only a smaller nucleus as a potential fighting force. But the Mahdi Army in recent years has been plagued with renegade groups. And with the prestigious mantle of a grand ayatollah, Muqtada may have more prestige to bank on as a leader of Shiite resistance to any Sunni resurgence. We'll see . . .

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