ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The winner of Iraq’s election, Muqtada al-Sadr, on Saturday received the ambassadors of five neighboring countries to discuss bilateral relations, except for Iran.
Sadr, the head of the Sairoon alliance which won the Iraqi parliamentary election by securing 54 seats, has started to receive local and foreign officials since official results were revealed a few days ago.
According to Sadr’s office, he has already met with a group of ambassadors from neighboring countries on Friday in Najaf.
The delegates included the Ambassador of Turkey to Iraq, Fatih Yildiz, Jordanian Ambassador Montaser al-Zoubi, Saudi Arabian Ambassador Abdul-Aziz al-Shammari, Syrian Ambassador Sattam al-Dandh, and the Kuwaiti Ambassador in Baghdad, Salim al-Zamanan.
Sadr discussed the relationship between neighboring Islamic countries and Iraq, as well as stressing the historical and cultural ties they share.
Sadr pointed out that “the fundamental principle of our ties with neighboring countries is based on friendship,” and called for the strengthening of existing relationships “in the interests of the people.”
He highlighted the importance of combining efforts to eradicate terrorism in the region, stressing that events that occur in neighboring countries also affect Iraq, and vice versa.
Sadr, an influential Shia cleric in the country’s south, called on the neighboring states to support Iraq in forming a technocratic government. “This should be in the form of support, not interference,” as he stressed Iraq’s sovereignty, according to his media office.
Over the past number of years, Baghdad has repeatedly been criticized for being under the excessive influence of Iran, leading some officials to claim Tehran directs most of the Iraqi government’s decisions.
The Iranian envoy in Iraq was the only absent neighboring country’s representative, and Sadr’s media office did not mention whether the Shia cleric had met with the Iranian ambassador separately.
Qassim Soleimani, head of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, has been meeting with political parties in Baghdad over the past few days, looking to form the largest bloc and prevent Sadr from leading the creation of the new cabinet.
Sadr has long been marginalized from other Shia blocs, especially those with close ties to the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Projecting himself as an Iraqi nationalist, Sadr has a zealous following among the young, poor, and dispossessed Shia Iraqis, but had been sidelined by influential Iran-backed figures.
Unlike current Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, a rare ally of both the United States and Iran, Sadr is an opponent of both countries, wielding influence in Iraq since a US-led operation toppled Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003 thrust the Shia majority into power.
Editing by Nadia Riva