Baghdad/London, Asharq Al-Awsat – Controversial Iraqi political and religious leader Moqtada al-Sadr has stated that he comprehensively rejects any Iranian attack on Iraq, even if it targets the “American occupiers”. To date, this is the strongest position taken by the firebrand cleric who is the leader of the Sadrist movement and enjoys strong ties with Tehran.
Al-Sadr’s surprising comments comes in response to a statement made by Iranian ambassador to Iraq Hassan Danaifar to local Iraqi media. In this statement, Danaifar threatened that Iran would respond against Iraq in the event of the US carrying out an attack on the country from its bases within Iraq. He stressed that “we informed the Iraqi officials that Iran will, of course, respond to any attacks carried out against it from within Iraqi territory.” The Iranian ambassador to Iraq also confirmed that “our Iraqi friends have confirmed that they would not allow any country to use its territory to launch at attack on Iran.”
According to the statement published yesterday by the website of the Political Commission of the Sadrist movement, al-Sadr “in response to a request for a formal [religious] opinion put to him regarding the statements made by the Iranian ambassador and in which he said that : in the event that we [Iran] are subject to American bombardment from Iraq, there will be an Iranian response against Iraq, his Eminence [Ayatollah al-Sadr] answered that: we will not allow this, even if it is the [American] occupiers who are being targeted.”
The Iranian embassy in Baghdad yesterday declined to comment on the statements attributed to the Iranian ambassador, informing Asharq Al-Awsat that “there is no official in the Iranian embassy in Baghdad who is authorized to comment on this issue.” The Iranian embassy in Baghdad also told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the Iranian ambassador to Iraq, Hassan Danaifar, is currently present in Tehran.”
For his part, senior member of the Sadrist trend, MP Hakim al-Zamili told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the position taken by Sayyid Moqtada al-Sadr in this regard is in essence an expression of the truthfulness of the Sadrist movment’s position with regards to the national issues that there must be no bargaining on for any reason, nor any excuse or pretext…for Iraq becoming a springboard for aggression against any neighboring country.” He added that “we also do not accept Iraq becoming an arena for others to settle scores from within our territory.”
Al-Zamili added that “the position of the Sadrist trend as clearly expressed by its leader Moqtada al-Sadr is based upon well-known fundamentals, namely respecting our neighboring countries and respecting our legitimacy as a nation and homeland…al-Sadr’s main concern is Iraq, therefore he hopes that our relations with all neighboring countries is built on mutual respect and the development of common interests in all fields.”
As for al-Sadr’s rejection of any Iranian attacks on Iraqi soil, even if this is targeting the American forces, MP Hakim al-Zamili informed Asharq Al-Awsat that “our position in this regard is clear and frank because we reject Iraq becoming an arena for score-settling at the expense of the national interests of Iraq. Therefore, in the event that Iran wants to settle its score with the US, or vice versa, this should not come at the [national] interests of Iraq, because we have had enough of wars and problems, especially as we have suffered from this problem for more than 30 years.”
For its part, the Iraqi State of Law coalition that is led by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki also comprehensively rejected the statements made by Iranian ambassador to Iraq Hassan Danaifar. A prominent member of the State of Law coalition, Adnan al-Saraj, told Asharq Al-Awsat that “Iraq’s position on this issue is clear and frank; the Americans and Iranians are both aware of this position, and we previously informed the Americans of our formal rejection of any attack against Iran being carried out from within our territory whatever the pretext. We also informed them [the Americans] of our rejection of Iraqi airspace being used as a springboard for any bombardment of Iran, whether this is via Turkey or Israel, and this is something that the Americans are well aware of.”
Al-Saraj also told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the Iraqi position is one that rejects these statements because there is no justification for this, not to mention that this is not a new position. Our position is that at the same time that we reject Iran being bombarded from within our territory, we also reject Iran issuing such statements that false positions can be based upon.”
He also stressed that “we informed the Americans that we will solve our problems and issues ourselves – whether these are internal or with our neighbors – and that we do not need any foreign intervention, whatever the reason.” Al-Saraj concluded by stressing to Asharq Al-Awsat that “Iraq also informed the US of its rejection of the US settling its score with Al Qaeda within Iraqi territory.”
Sadrist trend leader Moqtada al-Sadr’s position on this issue represents a new and strong position taken by this traditionally Shiite pro-Iranian Iraqi group. According to the political observers in Baghdad, the Sadrist trend finds itself in an extremely strong political position today, witnessing an increase in popularity in the Iraqi street, as well as winning 40 parliamentary seats at the last elections. Iraqi political observers have commented that perhaps al-Sadr, who is known for possessing a rebellious and volatile personality, has decided to exploit his party’s strong political position to take a stance against Iran, particularly as many analysts believe that Tehran pressured the Sadrist trend to ally with Nuri al-Maliki’s State of Law coalition to resolve the crisis surround the formation of the previous Iraqi government last year.