Towns in the area known as the "Baghdad belt" have been some of the first victims of increased security measures and sectarian incitement in a turbulent Iraq.
Tensions have boiled over as the Sadrist movement re-evaluates its military wing and vies for greater political sway.
Iraq is struggling to establish a modernized national identity, a problem which is most readily apparent in debates over public school and university curricula.
The multiple failings of the Iraqi government have given Najaf the opportunity to play the opposition’s role.
Disaffected Iraqi youth are increasingly doubtful of the country’s potential for democracy.
Friday sermons at Iraq’s mosques have become platforms for oftentimes escalatory political discourse.
Iran has always tried to secure religious legitimacy for its velayat-e faqih doctrine by supporting loyalists in the Qom and Najaf Shiite seminaries.
Iran has been dismayed by Najafi clerics's refusal to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s civil war.
The United Nations mission to Iraq announced that to 1,057 Iraqis were killed during the month of July, making it the bloodiest month in Iraq in years.
While Shiite clergy in Iran and Iraq mostly prefer to stay out of issuing fatwas, a minority is calling for jihad in Syria against salafist groups.