Despite years of discord and distance between them, Iran’s ambassador to Baghdad Iraj Masjedi said this week Iraq’s Shiite cleric and political leader Muqtada al-Sadr is a “dear and influential friend and brother” of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Sadr is both a long-time adversary of the United States and, over the years, has come out in opposition to Iranian influence in Iraq. Ahead of the country’s national election, al-Sadr distanced himself from Iran and positioned himself against the growing influence of Tehran on Iraqi politics under Iraq’s current Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi.
In an interview with Alalam news network, Masjedi said Iran “welcomes and supports the will of the Iraqi people” and reportedly lauded what he called an “age-old and deep-rooted relations” between Iran and al-Sadr, according to Iran’s state-run Tasnim News Agency.
Since he did not register to run in the election, al-Sadr cannot become Iraq’s next prime minister.
Soon after it was revealed that al-Sadr was working on forming a bloc to secure a majority in the parliamentary elections, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force General Qassem Soleimani reportedly arrived in Baghdad to meet with the Shi’ite leaders.
Despite Masjedi’s attempts to quell tensions between al-Sadr and Iran, at the end of its piece, Tasnim News Agency referenced a “rare visit to Saudi Arabia” by al-Sadr where he met with Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman (MBS) in July 2017.
Iran and Saudi Arabia are rivals. The reference to al-Sadr and MBS’s meeting appeared to be a way to craft Tasnim’s readership’s perception of al-Sadr in a negative direction.