x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Sadrists campaign to bar US troops from civilian buildings in Iraq

Moqtada Al Sadr's demand that US forces leave by year-end and his threat to revive his Mehdi Army if they do not are testing the Iraqi prime minister Nuri Al Maliki's fragile coalition.

Members of the Iraqi Sadr Movement's Mahdi Army march in Baghdad's predominantly Shiite suburb of Sadr City during a parade demanding the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq. Ahmad Al Rubaye / AFP Photo
Members of the Iraqi Sadr Movement's Mahdi Army march in Baghdad's predominantly Shiite suburb of Sadr City during a parade demanding the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq. Ahmad Al Rubaye / AFP Photo

BAGHDAD // The Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr is leading a campaign to bar US troops from cities and government buildings to pressure Baghdad and Washington to remove American forces from Iraq by the year-end, officials said.

Members of Mr Al Sadr's political movement have asked about 10 provincial councils in central and southern Iraq, including the capital, Baghdad, to pass resolutions to keep US forces out of cities and Iraqi facilities.

Last week Basra's council approved such a resolution and demanded US troops leave any civilian buildings used as army bases, including the city airport, provincial officials said.

On Monday, US soldiers protecting a provincial reconstruction team were asked to leave Basra council's building or give up their weapons, officials said.

Mr Al Sadr's demand that US forces leave by year-end and his threat to revive his Mehdi Army if they do not are testing the Iraqi prime minister Nuri Al Maliki's fragile coalition. The remaining 47,000 US troops are due to leave Iraq by December 31. Mr Al Maliki has called on political leaders to discuss whether soldiers should stay on to support and train local armed forces. Baghdad is supposed to deliver its final decision on the issue before August.

The Sadrist politician Mazin Al Mazini, a Basra provincial council member, said: "It is a Sadrist campaign created by Sayyid Moqtada, and Sadr blocs in all provinces, totally, have adopted this resolution" Mr Al Sadr, the Shiite cleric whose Mehdi Army fought US troops after the 2003 invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein, can have a major impact in central and southern areas, where his followers and allies represent about two thirds of council members.

The Sadrist politician Rafie Jabbar Noshi said: "We are trying to prove that the Iraqi people are not willing to extend the US troops' presence in this country any longer."