Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan meets with Iraqi Shi'ite leader Moqtada al-Sadr in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, August 13, 2017. Emirates News Agency WAM/Handout via REUTERS
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An influential Iraqi Shiite Islamic scholar, notorious for his followers' deadly attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq over a decade ago and thought at times to have ties to Iran, has two new stamps in his passport – from the two fiercest Sunni critics of Tehran in the Gulf. Muqtada al-Sadr's trips to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates come as the two nations want to limit Iran's influence in the wider Middle East, especially with Iranian-backed Shiite militias leading the fight against Daesh (ISIS) on Iraqi battlefields. Such harsh criticism from Iran would have been unthinkable in the years immediately following the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, where the Shiites are a majority.Neighboring Iran has had a government overseen by Shiite Islamic scholars since its 1979 Islamic Revolution. Sadr, the son of a prominent Shiite Islamic scholar assassinated in a 1999 attack believed to be organized by Saddam, quickly organized Shiite dispossessed under Saddam against the American occupation. Sadr's forces are believed to have later taken part in the sectarian killings between Shiites and Sunnis that plagued Iraq for several years after the bombing of one of the holiest Shiite sites.
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