Iraq’s Moqtada Al Sadr calls on militias to stand down

Iraq’s Moqtada Al Sadr calls on militias to stand down
Iraq’s Moqtada Al Sadr calls on militias to stand down

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Iraq’s populist cleric Muqtada Al Sadr late Wednesday called on Shiite militias to stand down as US-Iran tit-for-tat military action intensifies in the country.

Three Katyusha rockets hit Baghdad’s Green Zone on Wednesday night amid heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran following the US killing of Iran’s powerful general Qassem Suleimani last week.

The heavily fortified zone is home to government and diplomatic building including the US embassy.

Earlier on Wednesday, Iran launched 22 ballistic missiles at Iraqi bases hosting American and other foreign troops in response to Suleimani’s death.

The US drone strike also killed Suleimani’s top ally in Iraq, Abu Mahdi Al Muhandis, the deputy chief of the country's paramilitary forces known as the Popular Mobilisation Forces or Hashed Al Shaabi.

Several militia leaders said they would “take their own steps” to avenge the death of Muhandis.

The PMF’s political arm, the Fatah bloc, rallied anti-American sentiment in parliament to push through a resolution calling for the exit of foreign troops from Iraq.

But Mr Al Sadr, whose Mahdi Army led a resistance movement against US troops following the American invasion of 2003, called for “resistance and patience”.

He stressed that militias must "not start military action."

The influential cleric said the crisis that Iraq is experiencing is "over".

Although he expressed support for ousting foreign troops, he also stressed that the country must be “patient and use political, parliamentary and international methods” to accomplish this.

Iraqi militias should not start military action, Mr Al Sadr said on Twitter, and should refrain from extreme rhetoric.

The cleric, who leads the largest bloc in parliament, asked politicians to form a “strong” government within the next 15 days.

“The government should be able to protect the nation’s sovereignty and independence,” he said.

Mr Al Sadr has long been an advocate of Iraqi independence from Iran and US and for the country to not be a theatre for proxy wars.

US President Donald pulled back from the brink of war with Iran on Wednesday, saying that Tehran appeared to be "standing down" after launching missiles at US troops.

Mr Trump reinforced his administration's tough policies towards Iran and announced new sanctions on Tehran.

Washington did necessarily have to hit back after Iran's attack in Iraq, the act itself was a retaliation for the targeted killing of Suleimani, Mr Trump said.

Updated: January 9, 2020 03:44 PM

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