Reporting on Muqtada al Sadr’s return to Iraq, the Los Angeles Times said:
If his old speeches had been warlike, urging rebellion against the Americans, his tone Saturday was measured and controlled, acknowledging the harshness of Iraq’s war in the streets and the suffering of all Iraqis.
“Whatever struggle happened between brothers, let us forget about it and turn the page forever and live united,” he said from a newly erected podium outside the villa that once was the home of his father, the grand ayatollah who sacrificed his life defying Saddam Hussein’s dictatorial regime.
Sadr once more sounded the call of war against U.S. forces, and was answered back with a hearty, “Down, down, America!” But if before he encouraged violence, many would say recklessly, now he weighed his every word, emphasizing the need for discipline.
“Resistance, yes, resistance, but not everyone will carry weapons,” he told the crowd. “Only those qualified will carry weapons.”
Weeks after his political bloc served as a kingmaker in the negotiations that kept onetime foe Nouri Maliki in the prime minister’s office, at times Saturday, Sadr sounded like a bread-and-butter politician.
“If it serves the people, providing security, safety and services, then we are with this government, not opposed to it,” Sadr counseled his followers.