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Jamestown Foundation: Becoming an Ayatollah

The New Iraqi Politics of Moqtada al-Sadr

Author: Babak Rahimi
February 7, 2008



As a political and military force, Iraq’s Shiite Sadrist movement has undergone a number of radical transformations since 2003, when its leader, Moqtada al-Sadr, surprisingly emerged as a leading political figure. Al-Sadr’s recent decision to continue with his seminary studies and graduate as an ayatollah at the conservative seminary school of Najaf underpins a major change in the movement’s structure that could have serious repercussions for the future of Iraq. Against the backdrop of changing political alliances between Kurds and Sunnis, al-Sadr is transforming his movement into a new political phenomenon with implications for the country’s political structure and security dynamics. The consequences are also immense for Shiite Iraq, posing serious challenges to the conservative clerical establishment in Najaf.

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