Iraq's Sadr calls for probe into militia attacks on federal offices, missions

The influential cleric also stressed that the findings should be revealed to the public "within a specific time frame for the necessary legal and executive measures to be taken in this regard."
author_image Khrush Najari

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The influential Iraqi cleric and politician, Muqtada al-Sadr, called for the formation of a committee to investigate rocket and bombing attacks on federal buildings and international mission offices, a suggestion welcomed by Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, the Speaker of Iraq’s Parliament, as well as the President of the Kurdistan Region.

"It is an urgent interest to form a relevant committee" amid "the seriousness of the security conditions that beset the present and future of the country and amid security breaches that threaten the prestige of the Iraqi state and pose a direct threat to the life and fate of our dear people,” Sadr advised his twitter followers, who number over one million.

The committee, he suggested, would be "security, military and parliamentary in nature" and tasked with investigating "the security breaches that diplomatic missions and official state headquarters are exposed to, in a way that harms Iraq's reputation in the international community."

A self-styled nationalist leader, Sadr also stressed that the committee's findings should be revealed to the public "within a specific time frame for the necessary legal and executive measures to be taken in this regard."

The cleric's statement came two days after he accused factions within the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), known in Arabic as the Hashd al-Shaabi, of "weakening Iraq" by carrying out assassinations and bombing operations across the country.

Addressing the PMF, Sadr said, "Know that what some [PMF] factions…are doing is weakening Iraq, its people and its state," as he further claimed that this would contribute to "strengthening external forces, on top of which is the great, evil America."

"What is happening from the bombing and assassinations by some of your affiliates, even if you are not satisfied with it,” he continued, “this is not enough. Rather, you must seek wisely and deliberately to end making Iraq an arena for the struggle of others.”

Sadr’s Shift

Sadr’s position marks something of a shift from his stance earlier this year, in February, when the UN, US, and UK all joined in condemning his supporters for killing Iraqis who were protesting against poor government services and corruption.

Read More: UN, US, UK condemn killings of Iraqi protesters by Sadr supporters

At the time, Adil Abdul Mahdi headed a caretaker government, having resigned in December. Iraqi President Barham Salih had nominated Kadhimi to succeed him, but Kadhimi had not yet been approved by the Iraqi parliament.

Since then, Kadhimi has received such approval, of course, and his new government has been welcomed in Washington, which has begun a “Strategic Dialogue” with Baghdad.

The US aim is to establish normal relations with Iraq, like it has with Arab allies, such as Jordan and Egypt. Washington also seeks to counter Iranian influence in Baghdad, which the previous US administration, under Barack Obama, ignored.

But this shift in US policy really did not come until Mike Pompeo replaced Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State in the spring of 2018 and David Schenker became Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs the following year.

The US now actively opposes Iranian influence in Iraq and elsewhere. That has benefitted the Kurds.

Read More: The US-Iraq Strategic Dialogue: Good news for the Kurdistan Region

It also allows an avowed Iraqi nationalist, like Sadr, to speak up against Iranian proxies in Iraq.

Top Iraqi, Kurdish Officials Welcome Sadr’s Suggestion

Following Sadr's appeal, Kadhimi and the Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament, Mohammed al-Halbousi, voiced their support for forming a committee, as he had suggested.

As Kadhimi affirmed, "The hand of law is above the hand of those who break it, regardless of what some think otherwise," and "the coalition of the corrupt and the outlawed weapon has no place in Iraq."

Speaking in similar terms, Halbousi stated that creating such a body is "a sound and realistic road map."

Likewise, the President of the Kurdistan Region, Nechirvan Barzani, tweeted, “We follow with great concern latest threats & attacks against diplomatic missions & international coalition bases who are protecting Iraqis from terror.”

“We support efforts of Iraqi leaders to prevent more attacks & stand ready to help ensure security & stability in the country,” his tweet affirmed.

Editing by Laurie Mylroie