Beware warlords who are into self-improvement. Case in point is aadical Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al Sadr. He and his followers have been a thorn in the side of his government and the Coalition from the onset. For example, al Sadr has pledged to support Iran if it is attacked over the issue of the Iranian nuclear weapons program. Nevertheless, he recently named the highly respected cleric Ammar al Musawi as his "spiritual leader." Musawi was a distinguished follower of Sadr's father, who was a prominent religious figure, but one who was more moderate than the son. A staunch opponent of Saddam Hussein, Musawi spent many years in exile, mostly in Iran. Despite his ties to the Iranian regime, he is generally regarded as a moderate in religious matters, an opinion apparently shared by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Sistani, the most prominent Shia leader in Iraq and strong supporter of a democratic future for the country, has publicly praised Sadr's choice.
There have been reports for some time that Sadr has been trying to convert his followers into a political movement, and by embracing Musawi he may be moving further toward that goal, trying to create a more moderate image. However, that does not change the fact that Sadr has clearly shown a preference for religious dictatorship, not democracy.