Outspoken Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr warned of escalating US-Iran tensions in the country a day after a rocket landed near the US Embassy in Baghdad, as Iran FM Javad Zarif called out US President Donald Trump in a tweet, saying: “Never threaten an Iranian. Try respect —it works!”
“I am not for the breakout of war between the US and Iran,” Sadr said in a statement posted on Twitter.
Sadr, a consummate opposition voice in Iraqi politics since 2003, warned the government in Baghdad to stand strong in the face of rising tensions.
“If Iraq does not stand united, it will be the end of Iraq,” he warned. Sadr headed the Sayirun coalition to a win in last year’s Iraqi parliamentary election.
He opposed the US presence following the liberation in 2003, only to end up in Iran at the request of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most influential marja in Iraq.
Sadr led the Saraya al-Salam (Peace Brigades), a Shiite militia, during the war with the Islamic State (ISIS). He said he was suspending the militia in Basra last June to end paramilitary interference of the Iraqi security apparatus.
“I am standing against the entanglement of Iraq in a possible war. Iraq should not become a battleground for the US-Iran rivalries,” he explained.
Sayirun partnered with the Communist Party of Iraq during last year’s election, vowing to fight corruption and give a voice to the country’s poor.
He also downplayed the rising tension saying neither Washington nor Tehran truly wants to enter a war.
The UN Security Council will be briefed by United Nations Assistance Mission to Iraq (UNAMI) head Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert on Tuesday.
“The nations of Iraq should raise their voice against war and against pulling Iraq into the war,” Sadr encouraged.
Among the few government officials to speak out from Baghdad, Yahya Rasul, the spokesman for the Security Media Cell, called the security situation in Baghdad “stable” on Monday, while encouraging media to use “official sources.”
“The security situation in Baghdad is stable & Baghdad Ops Command work night & day to protect the security of our citizens, diplomatic missions & companies. There’s nothing to worry about & I urge the media to come to official sources before publishing news that may be incorrect,” he tweeted.
“Neither Iraq nor does its nation endure another war. We need peace and reconstruction,” Sadr urged.
He branded any side as “the enemy of Iraq” who will bring war into the country.
Zarif took to Twitter on Tuesday, accusing the United States of “economic terrorism.” He also warned never to threaten an Iranian because they have “stood tall for millennia while aggressors all gone.”
“Goaded by [the] #B_Team, @realdonaldtrump hopes to achieve what Alexander, Genghis & other aggressors failed to do. Iranians have stood tall for millennia while aggressors all gone. #EconomicTerrorism & genocidal taunts won’t “end Iran”. #NeverThreatenAnIranian. Try respect — it works!” he tweeted.
Zarif’s tweet was an apparent response to a Trump’s tweet on Sunday night that if Iran wants to fight, the United States will “end” the Islamic Republic. Zarif uses the term “B Team” to refer to US National Security Adviser John Bolton, Israeli PM Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu, Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (MBZ).
“If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!” Trump said shortly after the Katyusha rocket struck near the US Embassy in Iraq.
No one was injured in the explosion. Iran has not directly claimed any involvement in the incident.
The incident comes days after the US ordered the withdrawal of non-emergency personnel from Iraq and warned its nationals about the risk of violence or kidnapping because of an “imminent” threat that is directly tied to Iran and Iranian-backed groups.
The State Department also increased its travel advisory to the most extreme level, telling people not to travel to Iraq because of the risk or “terrorism, kidnapping, and armed conflict,” on Wednesday.
Hundreds of US citizens live in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region and some 5,000 American troops are stationed at Iraqi bases at the invitation of Baghdad.