February 4, 2011 By

Moqtada Al Sadr Retires From Iraqi Politics

Iraq’s anti-U.S Shi’ite cleric and political leader Moqtada Al Sadr has announced his complete retirement from political life.

mIn a handwritten note posted on his website on Sunday, Sadr said that he would not be holding any future government positions or have any representatives in parliament. The forty year old cleric also said in the letter that he would shut down all his offices except for charity and educational groups. However, His followers who gathered near his office in Najaf in southern Iraq on the same day, urged him to reconsider his decision.

Sadr and his militia group, the Mehdi Army, gained significance after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. But in recent years he had lost ground following disagreements with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Sadr, a strong U.S critic, incited anti-US sentiments through his speeches and public interviews after the toppling of Saddam Hussein eleven years ago. His followers were involved in the Iraq War and constantly at clashes with the US forces. The Mehdi Army was disbanded under government pressure in 2008, following a clash with Iraqi Army forces controlled by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Sadr faced an arrest warrant in 2004 in connection with the murder of a rival cleric. His militia was also blamed for the abduction, torture and massacre of thousands of Sunnis in the sectarian carnage of 2006 and 2007. He fled to Iran seeking asylum during that period and returned in 2011calling for unity and peace in Iraq.

Sadr is also the head of a political party named after him, which forms part of the National Iraqi Alliance coalition in the Iraqi parliament. His party holds 40 seats in the 325-member Parliament, making it the largest single Shiite bloc, and it controls seven ministries in the government.

The reason for withdrawing from Iraqi politics is not known. But it’s said that the decision was meant  to help Prime Minister Maliki.

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