ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Influential Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr on Sunday expressed his rejection to the presence of foreign troops in Iraq, vowing resistance against them.
In a hand-written letter released to the media by his office, Sadr, the leader of the Sadrist Movement in Iraq, warned against the presence of the US or any other foreign military in the country.
“Our position regarding the presence of the invading US forces, under the pretext of military advisers, and with the endorsement and knowledge of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is clear,” he wrote. “Everyone knows our position, we reject and resist” the presence of the US troops in Iraq.
Sadr had previously accused the US of allowing the Islamic State (IS) to emerge in Iraq and had warned against any foreign military involvement in the country. “The US or any other nation which deploys troops to the country will be considered aggressors.”
Politicians and military units in Iraq have also expressed their opinions regarding the presence of foreign militaries on their soil.
Mohammed al-Sayhoud, an Iraqi MP from the previous Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law bloc, described the current Iraqi administration’s policies toward American and foreign military presence in the country as “a conspiracy.”
Several Shia militias under the umbrella of the Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi have also voiced their opposition to the presence of US troops in Iraq, even vowing to target them if they remain.
There are over 5,000 US troops in Iraq. In February, the US-led coalition against IS stated its focus in Iraq would shift from combat operations to sustaining military gains against the extremist group.
Despite threats from the Shia militia groups, the coalition statement revealed its troops would remain in Iraq as IS extremists “continue to pose a threat” to the country’s security and risk transition back into an insurgency.
That same point was emphasized by US Central Command (CENTCOM) Commander General Joseph Votel on a panel at a conference in Washington on Tuesday when he said the US-led coalition remains committed to its defeat of the extremist group in both Syria and Iraq.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany