"On Friday, Iraqi and U.S. officials viewed the extension of the cease-fire as emblematic of Sadr’s political evolution. With the passage of a law last week that calls for provincial elections, they said, Sadr believes his movement could win against Iraq’s current Shiite rulers, widely viewed by Iraqis as corrupt and inefficient. Last year, Sadr’s loyalists withdrew from the government to distance themselves from it.
"They can compete either through the ballot box or through militias," said a senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity. "The Sadrists think they could make significant advances at the ballot box as part of a backlash at the perceived failures of the government. . . . They think they made a mistake in boycotting elections in 2005."
Even some Sunni politicians, who were suspicious of Sadr’s motives, appear to be embracing his efforts to steer his movement away from violence. Alaa Maaki, a Sunni legislator with the Iraqi Islamic Party, said the Sadrists are engaging more politically and now meet regularly with representatives of his party." Washpost
Interesting fellow Sadr. He is widely thought to be devoid of the kind of scholarly talent that would allow him to become a real Shia Alim, but his "street smarts" are hard to dispute. He is a kind of Juan Peron or Emiliano Zapata figure to the Shia poor of Iraq. They think of themselves as an oppressed underclass, the descamisados in the conceit I just made of Latin Robinhoodery. He fits that nicely for them. His father was a well thought of Ayatollah, and Muqtada is riding that reputation. His father got on well with Sunnis. He gave Sunni (and Shia) tribal sheikhs a lot of credit for wisdom in their administration of tribal law (‘urf, ‘aada and taqlid). They remember.
Muqtada has some interesting quirks. He consults often with the Mahdi himself. No. I am not joking. That would be disrespectful. His "army" (movement) is the Mahdi’s Army. The Shia Mahdi waits in the wings for an appropriate time to come forth and accept the command of that army. The Shia Mahdi is the 12th Shia Imam who has been "hidden" (by his own choice) for a long, long time. At some point he is going (according to 12er belief) to appear with Jesus to lead the struggle against vice, sin and unbelief. When that fight is won, then the last days will be upon us and Judgment Day will arrive for all including those who have been suffering the torments of the grave.
There is a body of correspondence between and among units of the Mahdi Army and Muqtada al-Sadr’s office concerning Muqtada’s consultations with the Mahdi on matters of policy. There are frequent references to decisions taken by Muqtada on the basis of guidance given him by "the boss." One might think that what is meant is "inspiration" by the spirit of the Mahdi, but that does not seem to be the case. the language implies real meetings in the flesh at some secret location.
A good example involved Hashish. Some Mahdist commanders asked if it were permissible for their men to use Hashish when fatigued, depressed, etc, from the strains of duty. Muqtada’s office replied that after consultation with the Mahdi…
Interesting fellow, pl