Al-Sadr's back

The radical Shiite cleric returns to Iraq, where he delivers a fiery sermon and names a new axis of evil.

Published May 25, 2007 1:51PM (EDT)

When Muqtada al-Sadr, the radical Shiite cleric who leads one of Iraq's largest militias, reportedly left Iraq earlier this year, conservatives and the U.S. military seized on his departure as evidence that President Bush's "surge" plan was working.

But now al-Sadr's apparently back, at least for long enough to give a sermon Friday in which he came up with his own version of the "axis of evil," an "evil trio" that includes the U.S., the U.K. and Israel.

Al-Sadr holds a fair amount of sway in the Iraqi government, even after six ministers loyal to him resigned in April, in protest of the Iraqi government's failure to set a departure timeline for U.S. forces. Speculation among U.S. officials is reportedly that he is trying to boost his political stature ahead of elections, or that he is trying to exert more control over his Mahdi Army militia, which has reportedly been splintering of late.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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