Relocating the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would amount to a “declaration of war against Islam” that would require the formation of an armed group to liberate the holy city, said prominent Shiite Iraqi cleric and powerful militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr.
U.S. President Donald Trump, in a break with previous administrations, has vowed to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the American embassy there.
“Transferring the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem would be a public and more explicit than ever declaration of war against Islam,” said the Shiite cleric, leader of the powerful Mahdi Army militia responsible for attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq a decade ago, according to Middle East Eye.
Sadr called for the “formation of a special division to liberate Jerusalem were the decision to be implemented” and urged the Cairo-based Arab League, as well as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the world’s leading pan-Islamic body, to either take decisive action on the issue or disband themselves.
If President Trump honors his promise to move the American embassy to Jerusalem, Iraq should immediately close the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, said Sadr.
The Shiite cleric’s Mahdi Army has been rebranded as the Peace Companies and now fights under the Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), a predominantly Shiite paramilitary force legally operating as a component of the Iraqi military.
Some fighters from the PMU currently participating in the offensive to liberate the Iraqi city of Mosul from the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) are reportedly receiving assistance from the United States.
Last year, the firebrand Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called for his supporters to kill American troops.
Sadr’s comments about moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem echo a sermon given by the Palestinian Authority’s supreme Sharia judge Mahmoud Al-Habbash earlier this month.
“The new American administration intends to transfer its embassy to Jerusalem. In a simple, calm, and rational manner, in clear words that need no explanation and which are unambiguous: Such a step, for every Muslim, is a declaration of war on all Muslims,” declared Habbash, also a senior aide of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
“We are not enemies of the U.S. and we do not want to be. However, when something harms our faith and our existence, we cannot stand by and do nothing,” he added.
The control of Jerusalem is one of the thorniest issues in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with each side asserting claims over the holy city.
While Israel considers Jerusalem, including the eastern Palestinian sector, as its “eternal, undivided capital,” the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as a capital of their future state.
“Occupied Jerusalem is our eternal capital, the capital of our existence and the capital of our state. In politics, there can be compromises here and there… However, in matters of religion, faith, values, ethics, and history, there can be no compromises,” proclaimed the Palestinian Authority’s supreme Sharia judge.