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Muqtada al-Sadr, chameleon of Iraq's politics

Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr is taking advantage of the current popular protests in Iraq to expand his influence and thus become an undisputable leader on the Iraqi political scene.

Muqtada al-Sadr played a prominent part in the memoirs of the US civil administrator of Iraq between 2003-2004, Paul Bremer, with the latter describing the former as difficult to decipher and not easy to deal with, when compared to other opponents of the United States in Iraq. And now, more than one decade later, Sadr remains the preeminent troublemaking political leader, whose unexpected decisions surprise his challengers and rivals alike.

Sadr enjoys widespread popularity among Shiites and hails from a religious family with great influence among the populace — a family that lost two great religious leaders killed by Saddam Hussein's regime, namely Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr (1935-1980) and Mohammad Sadiq al-Sadr (1943-1999). His lineage thus afforded him great social legitimacy, allowing him to wield extensive power that changed existing political equations in unexpected fashion, as he imposed his will on the overall political process.

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