Al-Sadr: Russia, America and al-Assad should all get out of Syria!

Juan Cole, Informed
, 9 April 2017. 
Shiite cleric 
Muqtada al-Sadr on Saturday issued a broadside
demanding that Russia and the United States withdraw from Syria and that
strongman Bashar al-Assad resign as president.

stand against al-Assad is unusual among Shiite movements. The Lebanese Shiite
militia, Hizbullah, has entered Syria to battle for al-Assad’s survival. Iran
is also strongly backing him. Other Iraqi Shiite militias, such as the League
of the Righteous, have sent units to support the al-Assad regime, for instance
in the battle for Aleppo. Contrary to what some allege, the Twelver Shiite
groups are not very likely to be supporting al-Assad because he has an Alawite
Shiite heritage. Alawites are not considered orthodox Muslims by the Twelver
Shiites. Rather, there are two reasons for their support. Hizbullah and Iran
need Syria to be in friendly hands if Iran is to continue to resupply Hizbullah
with munitions for defense of South Lebanon from Israel. Second, al-Assad has
configured himself as fighting a wave of Sunni extremism that threatens both
secularists and the region’s Shiites.
who has long been considered quirky by other Iraqi leaders, began by calling on
US President Donald J. Trump to stop going to excess in taking frivolous and
thoughtless positions and decisions. He said Trump’s flakiness not only damages
the US but also the world community. He warned that a heavy US intervention in
Syria could turn into a Vietnam-style quagmire for Washington. Nor did al-Sadr
see how Trump could bombard civilians to death in Mosul and then turn around
and condemn the Syrian government for its killing of civilians (admittedly by
horrific gas).
also doubted that the US could accomplish anything positive in Syria. After
all, he said, the Americans announced that they would help roll up ISIL in Iraq
years ago, but ISIL is still there.
asked, “Wasn’t enough for Syria that all sorts of internal and external actors
were interfering in the country, such that the US should now initiate a
negative role there, as well? The only one harmed by that,” he said, “is the
Syrian people.”
added, “I wouldn’t rule out that Trump’s decision to strike Syria will permit
Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) to spread into other areas.” If the US wants to play the
role of peacemaker and promoter of dialogue in conflict situations, he said, it
can’t put off limits an honest broker role in Palestine, Burma, Bahrain, and so
forth, where it sides heavily with one side against another.
called on all parties to withdraw militarily from Syria and for the Syrian
people to take charge, since it is the only legitimate actor that can determine
its own destiny. Otherwise, only terrorism and occupation will benefit.
specifically said Russia should also leave.
went on to say “I find it fair that President Bashar al-Assad should tender his
resignation and step down from power out of love for beloved Syria, so as to
spare it the horrors of war and its domination by terrorists. He should give
the reins of power to some popular and effective individuals who can stand
against terrorism, so as to save Syrian territory as quickly as possible, so
that his action can be lauded as historic and heroic, before it is too late…”