The Wild Card

Radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr loathes the U.S.--and may be its best hope for preventing a civil war

Muqtada al-Sadr, the radical Shi'ite leader, doesn't like to miss out on the action. As Iraq convulsed in sectarian violence last week, al-Sadr was stuck in Beirut, on the final leg of a grand tour of Middle Eastern capitals. He was being feted by heads of state across the region, a remarkable achievement for a politician-cleric who has neither been elected to any office nor completed his religious education. After hearing news of the destruction of the Shi'ite shrine in Samarra, al-Sadr cut his trip short to return to Iraq to marshal his Mahdi Army, a militia of bristling young Shi'ites...

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