U.S. foe, Sadr, returns to Iraq after exile

Anti-U.S. cleric Moqtada al-Sadr returned to Iraq on Wednesday from years of self-imposed exile in Iran, after his faction struck a deal to join a new government, Sadrist officials said.

A somewhat diminished maverick whose militia was once viewed by U.S. forces as the greatest threat to Iraq, Sadr’s return could boost Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki as he tries to form his second government before a full U.S. withdrawal this year.

Mazan al-Sadi, a Sadrist cleric in Baghdad, said Sadr, whose movement battled U.S. forces and was accused of many sectarian killings after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, was visiting city of Najaf in southern Iraq.

Hundreds of followers flocked to the Imam Ali shrine in the city to chant “yes, yes to Moqtada” as he arrived there, dressed in clerical black robes and a black headdress. Others gathered outside his house and office, where security was tight.