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MOQTADA SADR BACK IN IRAQ

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The anti-U.S Shiaa cleric Moqtada  Sadr is back in Iraq after years of self-imposed exile, officials said on Wednesday 01/05/2011.

After a warrant for his arrest was issued, in 08/2006, in Iraq, Moqtada Sadr fled to Iran and spent more than three years in the Iranian city of Qom taking religious studies.  The radical pro Iranian cleric Moqtada Sadr returned to Najaf, his stronghold south of Baghdad.

The militia he founded based on Hizbullah model, trained and equipped by Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers – the Mahdi Army, clashed several times with USA and Iraqi forces after the 2003 US-led invasion. Following a major USA-led attack on Mahdi Army stronghold in Sadr City, the North Eastern part of Baghdad, which caused many hundreds of casualties to Mahdi Army militia, they agreed on cease fire, in 05/2008, (see – Mahdi Army cease fire) which led to a massive deployment of Iraqi troops in Sadr City and to the actual dismantling of Mahdi Army (see – Operation-Peace).

Last month, his political movement secured a deal and probably also his own safety, to be part of the new government, with 39 parliamentary seats and seven ministries (see – IRAQS 2010 Deal).

Meanwhile, the new Iranian acting Foreign Minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, has become the first senior official from Tehran to visit Baghdad since the formation of the new Iraqi government in December 2010.

Mr Salehi held talks with his Iraqi counterpart, Hoshyar Zebari, as well as Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Both sides stressed the need to develop good relations. The visit comes as the USA prepares to withdraw its rest 50,000 military personnel still in the country by the end of the year 2011 (see – Not Accomplished).

After a long dispute with PM Nuri al-Maliki, Moqtada Sadr announced, in 10/2010, that he was backing him for a second term of office (see also – Leaning to Tehran). But the movement is still regarded with suspicion by the USA military and many Sunni Arabs in Iraq.

After the issue of the Iranian nuclear military program which shadow all the Sunni countries of the Middle East, the second most important issue is who will control Iraq, with its wide Shiaa majority, behind the scene. As US is withdrawing its troops Moqtada Sadr, who wishes to be the equivalent of Hassan Nasserallah, Hizbullah’s leader in Lebanon, in Iraq, surely enhances the Iranian grip on Iraq (see also -Blow for Saudia).

Unexpectedly Moqtada  Sadr returned to Iran two weeks later, on Saturday 01/22/2011, leaving behind him many unanswered questions. .

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