He left the nation as a popular but controversial figure in the wake of violent turmoil. But Moqtada al-Sadr’s recent return to Iraq has a whole different view to it, with his supporters a large and powerful political faction and his supporters lauding the return as a game-changer.
The exact reason for his return has been the subject of no small speculation, but this is likely to come to an end soon. On Saturday morning, Sadr’s office has confirmed, he will address the nation in a major public speech. The content of the speech, as well as its location, has yet to be announced.
But the atmosphere around Iraq at this point is such that he could credibly announce almost anything. Openly condemned in 2006 as the “greatest threat” to Iraq by the Pentagon, even rival political blocs seem scared to offer anything but unequivocated praise.
His supporters in the Shi’ite community are hopeful that he will be able to offer some measure of stability with his return, particularly important with officials saying the level of violence against civilians is largely expected to remain flat in the upcoming years.
The announcement could really be anything from an effort to reconcile with the nation’s Sunni Arab minority to a demand for the US military to leave Iraq. With his power expected to only grow more as time goes on, both friend and foe will be looking at the speech with great interest.