Key Iraq Cleric Threatens US Over Plans to Declare Sunnis, Kurds ‘Countries’

Sadr Says He Will Reform Mehdi Army's Military Wing

Influential Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr today warned against the House military budget, which aims to declare Iraq’s Kurds as well as certain Sunni Arab militias separate “countries” in their own right, to allow the Pentagon to directly arm them.

“In the event of approving this bill by the US Congress, we will find ourselves obliged to unfreeze the military wing and start targeting American interests in Iraq – even abroad,” Sadr cautioned in a statement.

Sadr’s militia, the Mehdi Army, was disbanded when the US ended its previous occupation of Iraq. He has expressed disquiet over the resumption of US military operations in Iraq, and is even more alarmed that the US Congress is looking to unilaterally declare other factions inside Iraq as countries.

The recognition of the Kurdish Peshmerga and certain Sunni tribal militias as “countries” reflects a desire among Congressional officials to start directly arming them. US law obliges all military aid to a friendly country be provided through that country’s government, and Congress is hoping to circumvent that.

Iraq’s central government has been averse to too much armament being sent to rival factions, particularly the Kurds, as they have made clear they intend to eventually secede, and the US arms could speed the path toward such secession greatly.

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Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.