Shia factions fight for control of oil-rich regions [EPA]
Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has decided to extend the six-month ceasefire of his militia, known as the Mahdi Army, which he unilaterally declared last August.

The ceasefire allowed him to attempt to rein in hardliners in his own group. Yet it also provided an opportunity for his Shia rival, cleric Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, to consolidate his own power in southern Iraq. 

Competition between Sadr's movement and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, led by al-Hakim, has often been violent. A number of officials on either side have been assassinated.

The two Shia factions have been vying for control of the oil-rich regions, especially in the provinces of Basra and Maysan. 

Elsewhere, in Sadr's Baghdad stronghold of Sadr City, his power base is being systematically challenged by US troops.

So how will the firebrand cleric respond?

Will he maintain restraint? Will he lash out against his Shia arch-rivals? Or will he once again take on the American occupiers?

Inside Iraq this week investigates Sadr's political position in Iraq and whether he can keep the peace with his Shia rivals and with the Americans.

Our guests this week are:

Sheikh Salah Al-Obaidi, Muqtada al-Sadr's spokesman, and Katrin Michael, an Iraqi author.

Watch part one of this episode of Inside Iraq on YouTube

Watch part two of this episode of Inside Iraq on YouTube

This episode of Inside Iraq aired on Friday, February 22, 2008


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Source: Al Jazeera