Iraq’s Shia cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr has declared that he is willing to work with the Iranian-supported Popular Mobilisation Forces (Hashd Al-Shaabi) paramilitary forces – his political rivals – to end the American military presence in Iraq.
He made the comments yesterday after the US targeted five sites in Iraq and Syria and killed 30 in in retaliation for the death of an American “contractor” at an Iraqi military base in Kirkuk in a rocket attack, which Washington blamed on PMF member Kataib Hezbollah (KH).
Sadr believes in ousting the US troops from Iraq through political and legal means, however will “take other actions” with his rivals should these not work. The cleric has portrayed himself as a nationalist against both Iranian and American interference in Iraq. He also called on Iraqis to “avoid irresponsible actions” that can be used to justify further attacks on the country.
Sadr’s loyalist militia, the Mahdi Army, was notable in its fierce resistance against US occupation forces in the Shia dominated south, following the unilateral American invasion in 2003.
Outgoing Iraqi Prime Minister, who is serving as caretaker, Adil Abdel-Mahdi condemned the actions as a violation of Iraqi sovereignty, especially as the PMF are integrated into the country’s armed forces under his direct command and were established to combat Daesh.
Iraq’s top Shia cleric, Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Sistani, whose fatwa against Daesh led to the establishment of the PMF, also condemned the air strikes as a “criminal aggression” against “official Iraqi forces”. Sistani added that the Iraqi authorities are “entitled” to deal with the attacks and to take action to prevent them from re-occurring.
— Marwa Osman || مروة عثمان (@Marwa__Osman) December 31, 2019
Earlier today, protestors stormed outside the US Embassy in the Green Zone, some carrying flags of the KH and PMF. Some observers have noted how anti-government protestors have been unsuccessful for weeks in entering the Green Zone after being prevented by Iraqi security forces, but there have been no attempts to hold back those protesting against the latest American attack on the PMF, representing a possible dangerous situation for Western diplomats.