Iraqi Shiite leader Muqtada Al-Sadr said that the Popular Mobilization Units must relinquish the lead of the operation for the liberation of Mosul to the Iraqi army. In an interview aired by the Kurdish NRT TV on January 19, Al-Sadr said that Iraqi militias must not be involved in wars outside Iraq because this will only bring more terrorism back into Iraq. He criticized former prime minister Nouri Al-Maliki and others who always seek new wars, and said that the moderates on all sides must take charge. Al-Sadr said that Trump is like a pawn on a chessboard, and is only implementing a pre-determined American policy.
Muqtada Al-Sadr: The moderates from all sides should remove the extremists from all sides, and conduct productive dialogue between the moderates from all the religions.
The moderates should take control. But so far, you couldn't find moderates even if you searched with a lantern, because they are afraid. From the very start, I told Al-Maliki and the previous government that we should empower the moderates, so ISIS would not take over their minds, and win them over at the expense of the moderate camp. Interviewer: But ISIS did take over the minds of the moderates... Nevertheless, there are still moderates out there, but they are afraid.
Muqtada Al-Sadr: They need to be given a chance to emerge into the light of day, to speak up, to present the facts, and to lead Iraq on the right path...
Interviewer: Can even someone who sympathized with ISIS be considered a moderate?
Muqtada Al-Sadr: If he sympathized with ISIS out of fear, yes. But if he truly sympathized with ISIS, from the bottom of his heart, he absolutely cannot be considered a moderate, because no moderate reasonable person would sympathize with the ideology of ISIS.
There are popular, political, and governmental concerns that the politics would be in the hands of the militants.
Politics in the near future will be governed by the gun. Whoever liberates Mosul, whoever liberates Al-Anbar, will rule [Iraq]. Therefore, there are people who talk about postponing the liberation of Mosul. I have warned brother Al-Abadi of this. They want to postpone it until a new prime minister comes.
The liberation of Mosul should be done exclusively by the Iraqi army. No other parties should interfere. If the Iraqi army and the military commanders accept the involvement of other people or factions, there is no problem, but the Iraqi army must be in charge. The Iraqi state must be strengthened, as well as the Iraqi army, so that the army will bear sole responsibility for the protection of Iraqi soil.
There must be a strategic social plan for the day after the liberation of Mosul. The mujahideen and the men of the PMU and the Iraqi army, who will have liberated Mosul, must be kept out of politics.
The PMU must not intervene in wars abroad. This is very important because Syria has brought much evil upon us. I have heard declarations such as: "Just as we liberate Mosul, we shall liberate Aleppo." I hope that this will not be done by the PMU.
Interviewer: You must be referring to the declarations by the former PM [Al-Maliki]: "We are coming, Mosul! We are coming, Aleppo! We are coming, Yemen!"
Muqtada Sadr: This is one example, and there will be other declarations. There already are new ones. People whose mentality is purely militaristic never stop fighting. They are always in need of a new war. Why does the security situation in Iraq never stop deteriorating? Because there are political elements who benefit from it. If the situation in Mosul, Al-Anbar, and in the other governorates stabilizes - do you think that these people will just sit and watch? No. They will cause more war, more bombings, massacres, a new ISIS in a new disguise.
The Iraqi army should be the one in charge. However, if we are needed as a party that is acceptable to the people in the liberated areas, I am willing to be of service.
Interviewer: Why haven't you taken part in the battle over Mosul?
Muqtada Sadr: One of the main reasons is the presence of the occupying Americans. I refuse to cooperate with them.
If we decide to intervene in Mosul, a few conditions must be met, at least two: approval by the PM and by the people of Mosul, and non-intervention by the Americans in the areas we are liberating. We will liberate them and hand them over to the Iraqi army.
My views on wars taking place outside Iraq are well known: Every country has the right to self-determination. We should not interfere in their affairs, whether it is Syria or any other country, such as Yemen, Bahrain, or even Egypt and the "Arab Spring" countries. People used to say that we would fight in Syria to prevent terrorism from coming here. But I said, right from the beginning, that if we fight in Syria, it will lead to terrorism here. They did not believe me, but what I predicted came true.
Trump has no influence on the predetermined American policy. I see him as a mere pawn on the chessboard. He is meaningless. He can only implement the predetermined policy. If he is brave, and wants to do things that run counter to the predetermined American policy, he will be committing [political] suicide.