Baghdad- Top Shi’ite cleric in Iraq and leader of the Baghdad-based Sadrist movement Moqtada al-Sadr has warned, without naming a specific side, that his life is under serious threat.
Speaking to thousands of supporting demonstrators on Friday, Sadr urged the crowd and the movement to push further with what he called a “reform revolution,” even in the unfortunate event of his death.
In a clear sign of his concern over the greed of rival factions in the “Popular Mobilization Forces,” the leader of the Sadrist movement called on the Iraqi army to take the reigns over all military initiatives, demanding that only army units control areas liberated from the terror group ISIS.
“It is necessary to support the Iraqi army and security forces to complete their victories in the usurped areas,” Sadr told his followers at the rally in Baghdad as the demonstrators waved Iraqi flags and chanted support for their leader.
“They should be the only ones that hold ground after liberating it – no others, whether the occupier, foreign forces or others,” he said.
“If I was assassinated, then that would be a sacrifice for Iraq … and that is not far-fetched,” Sadr said.
Political analysts believe that Sadr’s fears are more political. They say he is concerned about rival Shi’ite militias gaining strength by taking ground in the north.
Baghdad-based political analyst Ahmed Younis said Sadr’s speech was a clear message to Shi’ite rivals.
“It’s quite a clear message for other Shi’ite armed groups not to take on the role of government forces and control lands under the pretext of fighting ISIS. Moqtada is trying to draw a line in the sand for his rivals,” he said.
Sadr, whose opinion holds sway over tens of thousands of Shi’ites -including fighters who battled US troops in 2006-7 – also threatened to boycott upcoming parliamentary elections.
He accused Iraq’s Election Commission of bias toward some parties.
The cleric is calling for a new commission and a review of the current election law, saying it allows influential parties to maintain their grip on power.