Leading Iraqi Shi’ite Muslim Cleric Tells Followers to Target U.S. Troops

A US soldier stands in front of graffiti painted on concrete blast walls at the Taji base complex which hosts Iraqi and US troops and is located thirty kilometres north of the capital Baghdad, on December 29, 2014. Taji is one of an eventual five sites where the US and …

On Sunday, the influential Shi’ite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr told his followers to target U.S. troops that are being dispatched to Iraq to fight against the Islamic State.

The Iraqi cleric was reacting to a recent announcement by U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, who said that the Pentagon would soon deploy an additional 560 troops to aid Iraqi forces in retaking the Iraqi city of Mosul from the Islamic State.

“These additional US forces will bring unique capabilities to the campaign and provide critical enabler support to Iraqi forces at a key moment in the fight,” Carter said on July 12 during a visit to Baghdad.

Sadr posted the comment on his official website after a follower asked for his reaction to the announcement.

“They are a target for us,” he said.

Despite the deep-seated hostility between Shi’ites and the Sunni Muslims of the Islamic State, Sadr seems willing to put those differences aside momentarily in a belief that the U.S. is a greater common enemy to Islam than ISIS.

Sadr has previously said he was preparing to send his Peace Brigades to Mosul to fight the Islamic State.

A known adversary of the United States, this is not the first time that Sadr has threatened to attack American forces operating in Iraq. In May 2015, Sadr warned he would attack U.S. personnel within Iraq if the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would have recognized Kurdistan and Sunnis in western Iraq as their own independent countries.

“If the time comes and the proposed bill is passed, we will have no choice but to unfreeze the military wing that deals with the American entity so that it may start targeting American interests in Iraq and outside of Iraq when possible,” Sadr said. “If America persists then it will cease to exist.”

The additional troops would raise the number of total U.S. forces in Iraq to around 4,650.

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