Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat—Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki has threatened Sadrist Movement leader Moqtada Al-Sadr with a “harsh response” if he continues to criticize the government. The latest clash between the two leaders comes after Sadr strongly criticized Maliki over his recent visit to Washington, saying he had failed to adequately notify Iraq’s parliament and that he was only going to the US to “beg” for arms.
The office of the prime minister responded in a statement on Monday which included an unprecedented attack on the Sadrist Movement leader, saying “We are sorry to see somebody who claims to head a religious trend speaking in language that only contains insults and abuse, and this is something that comes as no surprise to anybody inside or outside Iraq.”
The statement added: “While adhering to our long-held policy of not responding to him and others and keeping away from rhetoric that does not serve Iraq and its people, the statement issued by Moqtada Al-Sadr regarding the prime minister’s visit to the US, and the deliberate insults and false information contained therein, require us to clarify some facts to our esteemed citizens.”
The statement affirmed that “the prime minister’s visit to the US was announced a long time ago, and came about following an official invitation and so does not require the approval of the [Iraqi] Council of Representatives, which did not object to the visit in any case.”
“Such visits are the purview and responsibility of the prime minister, and there is no constitutional objection to this, while it also does not require permission from anybody,” he added.
The statement affirmed that “Iraq has never spoken in secret about its desire to buy military equipment or arms with any country. Iraq has not and will not beg for arms from any country, but rather it requests this openly and publicly to defend the people whose blood have been shed by terrorist gangs.”
The office of the Iraqi prime minister laid “personal responsibility” on Sadr, adding that “he previously issued comments in the media about his tireless efforts, in collaboration with Syria, to place another figure in the post of prime minister, and expressed his regret at this plan’s failure.”
The statement added: “Moqtada Al-Sadr’s efforts, both old and new, in collaboration with certain states against the will of the Iraqi people, are no longer hidden, and so it would be better for Sadr to refrain from this policy of collusion.”
Maliki called on Sadr to “consult with the wise so that they can advise him back to the right path before he levels accusations at others.”
The statement said, “The noble Iraqi people remember who strongly confronted the Al-Qaeda terrorist organization and the influence of the Sadrist militia which fostered murder, kidnapping, and the theft of public funds in Basra, Karbala, and Baghdad.”
“We expect this statement to be the last in our response to Moqtada Al-Sadr and his allies, and that he does not oblige us to respond to him once again for any such response would be very harsh.”
For his part, State of Law coalition spokesman Adnan Al-Siraj told Asharq Al-Awsat that the prime minister’s office had issued such an unprecedented statement due to the “transgressions of Moqtada Al-Sadr’s recent statements and comments, which are beyond the political and social bounds, even between partners.”
“Sadr’s criticisms have become an embarrassment and are beginning to affect the work of the cabinet. This is not to mention the fact that such statements create a state of political and social division,” Siraj added.
“Maliki has begun to turn over his cards, and he may continue to pursue this approach in the coming period,” the State of Law coalition spokesman said.