Friday, January 12, 2007
US reinforcements will go home in coffins': Sadr aide
A spokesman for radical Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has warned that US President George W. Bush's new Iraq strategy risks sending thousands of American troops to their deaths.
"The American people have to prevent their sons from coming to Iraq or they may return in coffins," said Sheikh Abdel Razzaq al-Nadawi, a senior official in Sadr's movement in the Shiite holy city of Najaf.
On Wednesday, Bush announced a plan to reinforce the 130,000-strong US force in Iraq with 21,500 extra troops to help Iraqi forces take on illegal militias such as Sadr's feared Mahdi Army.
"The problem of Iraq is the US presence and the increasing this presence will double the problem," Nadawi told AFP on Friday.
"This is not the first plan announced by Bush. All plans have failed and this plan will not be any better. We do not welcome this strategy and moreover we do not welcome the US soldiers," he said.
Nadawi accused Bush of taking decisions about Iraq's security without consulting Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government, who owes his job to the votes of 32 Sadrist deputies.
Another Sadr movement mouthpiece, Hamdalla al-Rikabi of the group's office in western Baghdad, accused the United States of wanting to spread chaos in Iraq rather than to contain it.
"Now we know that the occupation forces the supporters of terrorism. They don't want stability of this country, they want to divide it," he said.
"Increasing the number of foreign troops is a stab in the heart for the sovereignty of the elected government," he told AFP. "We support all efforts to stop violence but these efforts should be Iraqi. We reject the interference of any state in Iraq's affairs."
Sadr is one of the strongest opponents of the US presence in Iraq and his Mahdi Army has been branded by the Pentagon as the most dangerous faction in Iraq's bloody sectarian war.
The Iraqi government has given a grudging welcome to Bush's new strategy, but insists that it must take the lead role in future security operations.