Return of the kingmaker

After four years of self-imposed exile in Iran, radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr returns to an Iraqi political scene where his clout has never been greater.
Shiite cleric and political leader Moqtada al-Sadr addresses supporters in the southern city of Basra on February 26, 2006, shortly before his self-imposed exile in Iran. (ESSAM AL-SUDANI/AFP/Getty Images)

BAGHDAD - The cleric Moqtada al-Sadr is back in Iraq. The populist Shiite leader has spent four years in self-imposed exile in Iran, and now returns more influential than ever, after his political bloc gave decisive support to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s bid for a second term.

Sadr landed at Najaf airport on Wednesday afternoon, according to a senior Sadrist official, and made an evening visit to the shrine of Imam Ali. Footage broadcast on the state-run Iraqiya channel showed Sadr surrounded by hundreds of supporters who shouted his name and jostled to get a glimpse of the religious leader.

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