But other analysts say it’s better to have Sadr inside the political tent than hiding in the shadows.

Hisham al-Hashemi, who advises the Iraqi government on militant groups, said the lavish life of politicians could temper the Sadrists’ violent leanings.

“Once they get involved in this civilian life, in this luxurious life, they’ll be paying attention more to the car they’re going to [drive], whether it’s Japanese made or it’s German made,” he said. “So once they experience this luxury, they will stick to it and they will forget about the past.”

For now, though, Iraqis in Basra and Baghdad say they worry about a resurgent Mahdi Army. Their main concern is the recent release of militiamen who were detained back in 2008…

When asked if it’s acceptable for a political party that’s poised to participate in the new government to be allowed to maintain an armed wing, Balqis al-Khafaji, a member of Sadr’s advisory committee, said, “Absolutely.”