Muqtada al-Sadr, the Most Powerful Man in Iraqi Politics?

“We don’t think this is the way to bring about reforms. What they did was contributing to chaos,” said Muthana Amin, a Kurdish parliamentarian who managed to flee the protesters’ foray into the parliament building at the last minute. Some legislators, including a few Kurds, were harassed and beaten. Amin believes Sadr’s perceived encouragement of the attack on the parliament has actually backfired.

“I don’t think the Sadrists have taken over the scene,” Amin said. “You can say Sadr has the loudest voice in Iraq’s political arena today, but this does not mean he is the strongest political figure. If he were, he would be able to change things as he desired.”

Given his show of power and ability to gather tens of thousands of people on the street, some observers wonder if Sadr can bring about fundamental changes to Iraq’s political life. Many tend to think that given the divided nature of the political arena and often conflicting interests, there is a limit to what Sadr can achieve, including the power-broker status he appears to covet. On May 7, Sadr's arch political nemesis, Maliki, called for al-Ahrar to be banned from politics.

“Sayyed Muqtada al-Sadr has a strong loyal following, which makes him one of the most powerful political leaders in Iraq. He is also in command of a unified political bloc in the Iraqi parliament, which he can steer in any direction he wants,” Kadhim said. “But his power is more a tool to obstruct, not to impose any political outcome, as we saw in the events of the last weeks.”

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