On May 12, when Iraqis voted in the country’s latest parliamentary elections 15 years after the U.S. invasion, a new image of Sadr emerged: a smiling cleric with a snowy beard, holding up his ink-stained index finger after casting his ballot in Najaf. In his left hand, he held a plastic Iraqi flag.
al-Sadr was never the demon that the Bush Administration made him out to be. The Middle East is tough territory, and Muqtada al-Sadr is up to the task. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani wanted to exit politics in favour of al-Sadr (or at least someone like him) as I noted in 2006, but I noted at the time a Muslim leader exiting politics is an oxymoron, and evidently he found this too: he’s still involved.
For all his faults, al-Sadr has always been a person of above average personal integrity who had the best interests of his people at heart, and his current attack on corruption is a part of that. Most importantly for us, he has always wanted Iraq to be independent of domination from Tehran, something that the Bush administration (in its obsession to fight “terrorism” and encourage “democracy in the Middle East”) and the Obama administration (in its obsession to bury the hatchet with Iran) blithely ignored. Now we have Iran stretching its influence across Iraq and Syria to the Mediterranean and wonder why. One can only conclude that serial stupidity is the American way when it comes to foreign policy, which is why I shed few tears when Rex Tillerson “gutted” the State Department.