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20 May, 2019 19:36

‘It would mark the end of Iraq’: Shia clerics warn against US war with Iran

‘It would mark the end of Iraq’: Shia clerics warn against US war with Iran

As Washington and Tehran trade threats, a number of influential Iraqi Shia leaders have warned that a conflict between the US and Iran would be disastrous for Iraq, possibly destroying the country beyond repair.

A prominent Shia cleric, a leading politician and two militia representatives each voiced opposition to a possible war with the Islamic Republic on Monday, warning of apocalyptic consequences for their country.

“This war would mark the end of Iraq,” said Shia cleric and politician Muqtada al-Sadr, whose populist ‘Sadrist’ movement enjoys a large following. “We need peace and reconstruction.”

Any political party that would advocate such a war “would be the enemy of the Iraqi people,” al-Sadr said, arguing that Iraq would become “a scene for conflict,” caught between the warring powers.

Al-Sadr’s Saairun coalition won big in last year’s parliamentary elections, which ran on a platform opposing foreign meddling in Iraq and official corruption, while al-Sadr himself has long been a vocal critic of both American and Iranian influence in Iraq.

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Al-Sadr was not the only lawmaker to caution against escalation.

“If war breaks out … it will burn everyone,” said Iraqi politician Hadi al-Amiri in a statement. He called on Iraqis to work together “to keep Iraq and the region away from war.”

The warnings come on the heels of a rocket attack inside Baghdad’s ‘Green Zone,’ a fortified area of the city which holds the US Embassy and other foreign diplomatic offices. As of yet, no group has taken responsibility, but some Iran-aligned organizations quickly slammed the attack and suggested it would be used as a “pretext” for a conflict.

“We caution against operations that are intended to provide pretexts for war,” tweeted Qais al-Khazali, leader of Iran-backed Shia paramilitary group Asaib Ahl al-Haq (League of the Righteous). He added that “war is not in the interest of the Islamic Republic of Iran or of the United States of America.”

A spokesman for Kataib Hezbollah, another armed Shia group, also weighed in, calling the rocket attack “unjustified” and accusing a third party – Israel or Saudi Arabia – of staging the incident.

Tensions in the region are at a high point. Washington in recent weeks deployed an arsenal of military equipment to the Persian Gulf to address an alleged Iranian “threat,” and more recently evacuated all nonessential diplomatic staff from Iraq, citing the same danger.

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Washington and Tehran continue to exchange insults on social media, with US President Donald Trump tweeting on Sunday that Iran had “threatened” the United States, and warned that “if Iran wants a fight, that will be the official end of Iran.”

“Economic terrorism and genocidal taunts won’t ‘end Iran,’” replied Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who added, “try respect – it works!”

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