Muqtada al-Sadr may be the next Iraqi leader. Yes, there are elections. But with this guy’s track record, there is a lot to be concerned about.

Who is Muqtada al-Sadr?

Muqtada is an Iraqi religious cleric, politician and militia leader. As a result, he is extremely popular. In speeches, Muqtada has denounced the U.S. presence; in fact he has called America “the great Satan.” However he had also quietly backed a U.S. troop surge and even allowed American forces to set up a base in his neighborhood.

Attack on US forces

In 2004, Muqtada demanded an immediate withdrawal of all U.S.-led coalition forces. On April 5th, he called for jihad against coalition forces. On April 9th, his militia along with other attackers ambushed any and every convoy trying to get in or out of Baghdad International Airport. They ambushed the 724th Transportation Company. The massive attack consisted of improvised explosive devices, rocket-propelled grenades and small arms.  They killed eight drivers and three soldiers.

In 2007, Muqtada urged the Iraqi army and police to stop cooperating with the United States and told his guerrilla fighters to concentrate on pushing American forces out of the country. He said, “You, the Iraqi army and police forces, don’t walk alongside the occupiers, because they are your arch-enemy.”

US withdrawal

After the US withdrawal from Iraq, Muqtada continued to be an influential figure in Iraqi politics. In 2012, he began to present himself as a supported of moderation and tolerance and called for peace. Has he really changed his ways? Today, Muqtada is taking a lead in Iraqi elections. If he wins, how should we react? On the one hand, if he is elected, perhaps he ought to be treated as a democratic, free and fairly elected leader. However, on the other hand, this man has an extensive history of violence and could be a regional danger. Let’s hope he really does continue on a path for peace.