Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr emerged from hiding today, making a surprise appearance near the Iraqi city of Najaf. Al-Sadr, who fled to Iran four months ago, gave a sermon at Kufa today, condemning the US occupation and demanding a "timetable" for withdrawal. In a shift away from sectarianism, he encouraged Sunnis to join in peaceful opposition to the occupation.
Al-Sadr's return from exile may signal a growing confidence that the US will to remain in Iraq has reached a breaking point, and a belief that the Iraqi government is near collapse, creating new opportunity for the Sadrist movement. Al-Sadr also urged his Mahdi Army to refrain from battling Iraqi security forces.