Was the US plotting to assassinate Sadr in Iraq?

The influential Iraqi Shiite Cleric Muqtada al-Sadr escaped an alleged US assassination plot, according to the leader of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq Resistance Movement Qais Khazali.

“The first US-Israeli plot to be implemented in Iraq was assassination of Muqtada Sadr to put the blame on Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq and start internal bloodshed,” Khazali said in a TV program named Liqa al-Khas.

According to him, both al-Sadr and Iran were informed of the plot and it failed.

In May 2018, al-Sadr’s Sairoon electoral list won 54 seats in the first Iraqi parliamentary election since the ISIS was declared defeated in Iraq. He is the most influential political figure in the country.

He rejected US interference in the formation of the new Iraqi government, saying that “the US is an invader country; we do not allow it to interfere” in Iraqi affairs.

Just days earlier, on February 2nd, he called for an end to the violence on Iraq’s streets, as more than 550 protesters have died in the demonstrations since they began in October 2019.

Muqtada al-Sadr said in a tweet that in accordance with the recommendations of the supreme religious authority of Iraq (Marja) and in accordance with divine and rational laws, the street protests must return to its peaceful status and discipline. But he called for protests to continue, since he supports the incoming Prime Minister Mohammad Allawi, who is known for his strongly pro-Hezbollah views.

Al-Sadr has called on his supporters named the “Blue Hats” to work with security forces to maintain peaceful protests in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square.

Sadr also emphasized the need to reopen schools in the southern and central provinces in collaboration with the tribes of those provinces and strongly opposed the violence and the closure of the streets under the pretext of street protests.

Allawi, 65, is a veteran Iraqi politician who started his political career with the Iraqi Islamic Dawa Party before leaving the party. He was born in Baghdad, but he was forced to leave it in 1977, after being pursued by the Ba’ath government.

Allawi is a cousin of the former Iraqi prime minister and secular politician Iyad Allawi, but he is also a relative of Sadr. Two of Allawi’s daughters are married to sons of Basil al-Sadr, Sadr’s cousin and director of foreign relations at the Sadr office in London.

Allawi’s nomination “is a premeditated plan that started more than 40 days ago when the [Iranian-backed] political forces noticed that Sadr was convinced of Allawi’s nomination, so they sought to perpetuate and develop this conviction,” an unnamed Shiite leader from Iraq told Middle East Eye.

“After the assassination of [Iranian General Qassem] Soleimani and [Abu Mahdi] al0-Muhandis, Iranian policy in Iraq has completely changed. Soleimani was working to exclude Muqtada and keep him away all the time, but now the situation has changed.

“There is an Iranian tendency to contain Sadr and give him the role he desires.

“The [armed] factions pledged allegiance to Sadr in Qom as leader of the resistance, and this was part of the implementation of this policy.”

Initially al-Sadr supported the anti-government protests, but now that he supports the incoming Prime Minister, he maintains that peace should return to the streets and order should be reinstated.

At the same time, he is a strong political figure, who, despite his view of a very independent Iraq is much more open to cooperate with regional actors such as Iran and Syria, rather than with the US, thus the claims of a possible assassination plot aren’t entirely out of the question.

After all, al-Sadr strongly opposes any US presence, and the only option for Washington’s influence to grow is the remaining of its forces within the country. On the other hand, the US’ “nemesis” Iran has more interest in a strong and independent Iraq, which is open to constructive cooperation.