Iraq’s Shia cleric ‘Muqtada al-Sadr’ urges Saudi-Iran ‘serious dialogue’

Iraq’s opposition leader, Muqtada al-Sadr said Saudi Arabia and regional-rival Iran should engage in “serious dialogue” to avoid a potential sectarian war.

Saudi Arabia and regional-rival Iran should engage in “serious dialogue” to avoid a potential sectarian war, Iraq’s opposition leader, Muqtada al-Sadr said on Monday.

The rivals should attempt to thwart sectarian war, one of Iraq’s most influential Shia clerics said, after several years of tit-for-tat between the region’s two powerhouses resulted in sectarian violence and tension across the world.

“We have been pleased with recent positive developments in Saudi-Iraq relations,” al-Sadr announced in a statement released by his office.

“We hope this is the beginning of a de-escalation of sectarian tensions in the Arab and Muslim region,” he added.

“But some countries of the region, where the media has served to aggravate tensions, oppose this budding rapprochement,” al-Sadr said, noting “the only victims of these [sectarian] tensions are the people of Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Burma, Iran, Saudi Arabia and others.”

“Instead of fighting the triad of evil and its Daesh terrorist branch,” he said, referring to Israel, the US and the UK, “they [Muslim states] are fighting each other and focusing their aggression on their own people.”

Saudi Arabia should “exercise restraint, refrain from escalations, and allow the people to decide their own fate”, the firebrand Shia cleric added.

He also called on Tehran and Riyadh to “care for their peoples – regardless of religion, sect or ethnicity – and engage in serious dialogue with a view to restoring regional peace and security”.

Muqtada al-Sadr, who has in the past mobilised thousands of Iraqis in support of political causes, including threats to boycott Iraq’s provincial elections as part of a “reform revolution” in March.

But Sadr’s followers were accused of engaging in sectarian attacks following the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Meanwhile, militias aligned to the Sadr Movement have also played a role in the Syria war backing Bashar al-Assad’s regime, although the cleric himself recently called on Assad to step down, in a speech calling on all foreign parties to withdraw from Syria.