Muqtada al Sadr starts large campaign against US in Iraq

Saturday, 30 July, 2016 - 15:45

Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr and his militia are unleashing fiery anti-American rhetoric and threatening to attack U.S. troops.

Sadr rose to prominence when his Mahdi Army battled U.S. troops after the 2003 invasion. He has quietly tolerated the comparatively small U.S. military force there now supporting the war on Islamic State extremists. But the powerful cleric became confrontational again after Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced plans on July 11 to send an additional 560 U.S. troops to Iraq, bringing the total to more than 4,600.

"They are a target for us," Sadr said in a post on his official website on July 17.

A few days later, an official spokesman for Sadr’s militia, Alaa Abboud, echoed the threat.

“We are thirsty for Americans’ blood,” Abboud told a prominent Iraqi television news channel.

Any attacks by Sadr's militia would fundamentally change the Pentagon’s view of its mission to defeat the Sunni-led Islamic State group, also known as ISIS or ISIL. If U.S. forces were faced with a violent enemy inside Shiite-controlled territory, where many American troops are based, the heightened risk could prompt senior commanders to rethink their strategy or bring some troops home.