Saturday, May 21, 2011

Sadr slams prolonged US stay in Iraq

American soldiers patrol the Kadhimiya district of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad (file photo).

Source: Press TV

Iraq's influential political bloc, the Sadr Movement, has once again called on the Iraqi government and people to resist a prolonged US stay in the Middle Eastern country.

Dhiya al-Showki, the head of the social committee of the movement, urged the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to follow through on a three-year-old US-Iraqi agreement that calls for all American forces to leave the country by December 31, 2011, an AFP report said.

During Friday prayers at the Great Mosque of Kufa, the senior cleric stressed that if US troops stay in Iraq beyond the planned date, Sadr Movement, which has been given seven ministerial posts, would withdraw from the cabinet, triggering a political stalemate in the country.

This is while al-Showki hinted that certain Iraqi officials are now reportedly trying to extend the US mission in war-torn Iraq.

He then urged the Iraqi government to fulfill its commitments and not to betray the Iraqi people.

In April, the leader of Iraq's Sadr Movement, Muqtada al-Sadr, warned of an “escalation of military resistance” in Iraq if the US forces do not leave by the appointed deadline.

The Iraqi premier has also repeatedly ruled out the prospect of US troops staying in the war-ravaged country after December.

The US is obligated to withdraw its forces by the end of the year in line with the 2008 US-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).

The agreement also forced Washington to end its combat operations in Iraq in August 2010.

Despite the United States' claim that it no longer engages in combat actions in the country, there have been numerous reports of US troops' involvement in military operations in Iraq.

At the time, several prominent Iraqi figures -- among them Muqtada al-Sadr -- protested the passing of the SOFA accord, arguing that it violates Iraq's sovereignty and legitimizes the occupation.

The pact was initially expected to be put to a nationwide vote in 2009. However, the Iraqi government, under US pressure, decided against the referendum.

Washington and its allies invaded Iraq in 2003 under the pretext of finding weapons of mass destruction stockpiled by the executed Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein.

However, the invasion proved to have been based on false assumptions.

The war brought widespread violence, high civilian casualties and destruction for the Iraqi people.

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