Prominent Iraqi Shia cleric and opposition leader Muqtada al-Sadr has declared his willingness to mediate between Saudi Arabia and Iran with a view to mitigating tensions between the two regional powerhouses.
The offer came in a Tuesday statement issued by al-Sadr’s office in response to questions regarding the possibility of an Iraq-brokered “reconciliation” process between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
“Political tensions between the Islamic Republic of [Iran] and Saudi Arabia negatively impact Iraq,” al-Sadr is quoted as saying in the statement.
He goes on to voice his readiness to mediate between Riyadh and Tehran “with a view to gradually resolving their outstanding differences — for the benefit of Iraq in particular and the region in general”.
Al-Sadr’s Ahrar Bloc holds 34 out of 328 seats in Iraq’s parliament. It has not, however, been represented in Iraq’s current government since Ahrar-affiliated ministers collectively resigned in mid-2016.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, an Iraqi Foreign Ministry source was quick to point out that Baghdad maintains “good relations with Iran, Saudi Arabia and all the states of the region”.
Speaking anonymously due to restrictions on talking to media, the source added: “If there is a possibility of positive intervention to reduce tensions between the two countries, Iraq will not hesitate to do so”.
In remarks quoted by The Wall Street Journal late last month, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman called for re-imposing sanctions on Iran “to create more pressure” on the government in Tehran.
“We have to succeed so as to avoid military conflict,” he said. “If we don’t succeed in what we are trying to do, we will likely have war with Iran in 10 to 15 years.”
On Saturday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasimi responded to bin Salman, saying: “The Saudi crown prince’s thirst for power appears to have crossed the border and turned into a chronic disease.”