"Moqtada al-Sadr, the influential Shiite cleric and militia leader who went into hiding before the launch of a U.S.-Iraqi security offensive in February, is in the southern city of Kufa, senior U.S. military commanders said Thursday.
Sadr, who has long opposed the U.S. occupation and is ratcheting up pressure for a withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, has returned from neighboring Iran, perhaps as recently as this week, they said.
. . . Sadr's movement is wooing Sunni leaders and purging extremists in his Mahdi Army militia in an attempt to strengthen his image as a nationalist who can lead all Iraqis at a time when antiwar sentiments are growing in the United States and Iraq's political landscape is increasingly fractured.
Sadr's apparent reemergence comes days after his main Shiite rival, cleric Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, went to Iran for treatment of lung cancer. Hakim is also trying to strike a nationalist stance, recently changing the name of his party from the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq to the Supreme Islamic Council in Iraq." 
"The Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani, flew to the United States on Sunday for a multiweek visit that his office said was for rest and for help in reducing his weight. His office denied local news media reports that Mr. Talabani was ill and said he was in general good health apart from his weight, The Associated Press reported. His extended departure comes at a time when the United States is pressing Iraqi politicians to make progress on a variety of measures." 
"Radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr resurfaced Friday after nearly four months in hiding and demanded U.S. troops leave Iraq, a development likely to complicate U.S. efforts to crack down on violence and broker political compromise in the country.
. . . 'No, no for Satan. No, no for America. No, no for the occupation. No, no for Israel,' the glowering, black-turbaned cleric chanted in a call and response with the crowd.
. . . 'To our Iraqi Sunni brothers, I say that the occupation sows dissension among us and that strength is unity and division is weakness,' he said. 'I'm ready to cooperate with them in all fields.'
. . . Al-Sadr's associates say his strategy rests in part on his belief that Washington will soon start reducing troop strength, leaving behind a hole in Iraq's security and political power structure that he can fill. He also believes al-Maliki's government may soon collapse under its failure to improve security, services and the economy, they say." 
"In a hopeful sign on Tuesday, a Sunni tribal leader made a conciliatory public visit to Sadr City, the Shiite enclave in western Baghdad. Sheikh Hamid al-Hayis, leader of an alliance of Sunni tribes that recently began providing men to fight Al Qaeda beside the marines in Anbar Province, met with backers of the Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr.
Salih al-Ugaily, a Sadr supporter in Parliament, said in an interview that the two sides had agreed on the need for reconciliation and to expedite holding provincial elections, a major demand of Sunni Iraqis, many of whom have said they feel disenfranchised after boycotting previous elections." sources
 Ricks, Thomas E. & Raghavan, Sudarsan. (The Washington Post). Sadr Back in Iraq, U.S. Generals Say. May 25, 2007.
 Cloud, David S. (The New York Times). 7 U.S. Soldiers Die in Iraq, 6 in Sweep of Baghdad. May 21, 2007.
 The Associated Press. Radical Anti-American Cleric Muqtada al-Sadr Returns to Iraq. May 25, 2007.
 Cloud, David S. (The New York Times). Baghdad Truck Bomb Kills 25 and Wounds 100 Others. May 23, 2007.
posted: saturday, may 26, 2007, 10:55 AM ET
update: saturday, june 16, 2007, 3:55 PM ET
tags: iraq sadr
Labels: abdul aziz al-hakim, iraq, jalal talabani, moktada al-sadr, sunni