Militant Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr plans to make a series of short visits to Iraq starting within weeks but has decided to make Iran his home base for years to come, a key aide says.
The aide spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not supposed to discuss the subject. He is close to the 35-year-old cleric and has accurately reported on the Sadrist movement for several years.
The aide would not say how long al-Sadr would stay in Iran, where he has lived since May 2007, but said it was “reasonable” to expect he would remain there for five or more years.
That’s the time al-Sadr needs to prepare to win acceptance as a “marjaa,” joining Iraq’s top Shiite leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and three other grand ayatollahs as members of the highest Shiite religious authority.
Al-Sadr announced in March that he had moved to the Iranian holy city of Qom to focus on religious studies — an essential credential for power in Iraq’s majority Shiite community.
The decision to extend his stay could indicate the cleric, whose Mahdi Army militia battled U.S. and Iraqi forces for years, has decided his future lies in politics, not violence.
Last month, al-Sadr announced he was transforming his militia into a social welfare body with a few guerrilla cells to attack U.S. troops if Washington doesn’t agree to leave Iraq. The announcement followed setbacks in battles with the U.S.-supported Iraqi army in … >>>