Iraqi Shi'ite leader Muqtada Al-Sadr, the head of Saraya Al-Salam Militia said in an interview that as an act of good will, he is willing to hand over the weapons of his movement to the new government if it abides by several conditions. He said that the government must not be established on quotas, it should be concerned with the rights of the people and it should serve them. He added that the government should not be subject to any foreign country. Al-Sadr stated that he would only support the government of Prime Minister Allawi if it maintains its independence. Al-Sadr said that Kurdish leader Masoud Barazani should not side with the Americans. He added that he does not want the Kurds or any other sect to secede and he will not allow them to do so. Al-Sadr stated that the occupation must leave Iraq one way or another. In response to a question about ISIS entering Iraq once the U.S. has left, Al-Sadr said: "We are ready for them – let them come." He added that if the need arises, he can arrange for air support and international support. Al-Sadr said that if extremist Sunnis bring back car bombs, he is prepared to bring back "other things." The interviewer asked if he was referring to pickup trucks used to kidnap opponents. Al-Sadr chuckled and said he is willing to bring back "many things." The interview was aired on Alsharqiya TV (Iraq) on February 24, 2020.
Muqtada Al-Sadr: "If the interim government, or the new one... Maybe not the interim government, but if the new government comes to collect the weapons that are not under the state's control, and if they consider me, as the head of Saraya Al-Salam, not to be part of the state, I will be willing to turn [my weapons] over to them."
Interviewer: "If you do it as the head of Saraya Al-Salam... Okay, no problem, but..."
Muqtada Al-Sadr: "As long as the army and the police are serious and not afraid – not like when they handed over Mosul, in the days of so-and-so...
"As an act of good will, I am ready to hand over my weapons to the government as long as it is not established on quotas, is concerned with the rights of the people and serves them, and as long as it is not subjected to the West, East, North or South. In that case, I'm ready."
Interviewer: "What is the message that you want to send to the Kurdish and Sunni leaders?"
Muqtada Al-Sadr: "I would like to tell brother Masoud [Barazani] that he shouldn't side with the Americans. They will do him no good. We can benefit him more. The occupation must leave – one way or another. No more exploitation of our resources. No more tearing us apart.
"First, I don't want [the Kurds] to secede. They are our brothers and a part of us. Second, we will not allow them to secede – not the Kurds, not the Sunnis, and not even the Shi'ites. We will not allow the formation of a Shi'ite province. Iraq must not be divided at this time. It would only further weaken Iraq and turn it into an easy prey for anyone."
Interviewer: "Some people say that if the American forces leave, ISIS will come back in six months."
Muqtada Al-Sadr: "Fine, we are ready for ISIS."
Interviewer: "What do you mean ready for ISIS?"
Muqtada Al-Sadr: "We are ready. Let them come and see what we will do to them."
Interviewer: "Who is ready? The army?"
Muqtada Al-Sadr: "The entire Iraqi people is ready. The Sadrist movement is ready to shed all its blood in order to liberate you from ISIS. They are all ready, and I am one if them."
Interviewer: "Do you have the military capability to confront ISIS if the U.S. forces withdraw with all their..."
Muqtada Al-Sadr: "You don't think that the Sadrist movement can handle ISIS?"
Interviewer: "But you don't have air support and modern technology."
Muqtada Al-Sadr: "Don't worry about it. We get along just fine."
Interviewer: "Do you promise..."
Muqtada Al-Sadr: "I can arrange for air support."
Interviewer: "Do you promise..."
Muqtada Al-Sadr: "I can even arrange for international support."
Interviewer: "Where will you get international support?"
Muqtada Al-Sadr: "Don't underestimate me. I know how to get along.
"If some extremist Sunni leaders want to bring back their car bombs, we are ready. We will bring back something else as well."
Interviewer: "What will you bring back?"
Muqtada Al-Sadr: "You know what."
Interviewer: "Will you bring back the pickup trucks [used to kidnap opponents]?
Muqtada Al-Sadr: "If they bring back the car bombs, we will bring back many things.
Interviewer: "Okay, you said..."
Muqtada Al-Sadr: "The Mahdi Army [militia] was suspended, not abolished."
Interviewer: "So it can be restored?"
Muqtada Al-Sadr: "It is possible."
Interviewer: "It can be restored at any time."
Muqtada Al-Sadr: "I considered it many times."
Muqtada Al-Sadr: "To fight car bombs, to fight ISIS, and to expel the occupation. Why was it established in the first place? To defend me or to defend Iraq?"
Interviewer: "Why do you see them as occupiers I they were invited here by the Iraqi government? In practice, they are not..."
Muqtada Al-Sadr: "Was I part of the government that invited them? No, I wasn't..."
Interviewer: "Not you, but the Iraqi government..."
Muqtada Al-Sadr: "I have nothing to do with them. They have their own opinions, I did not invite [the Americans] and I never will."
Interviewer: "And you see [the Americans] as occupiers?"
Muqtada Al-Sadr: "I see them as occupiers to this very moment.
"If PM Allawi's [government] will be based on quotas, I will oppose him. If the political blocs oppose an independent government, and demand quotas, I will oppose them. I am not here to support Allawi. I support the sovereignty of Iraq and the sovereignty of the Iraqi government. It should be independent from the political parties. We don't want the deep state any more. If Allawi manages to do it, I will support him, and if not, I will oppose him."