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People's Daily Online

Iraq's Shiite cleric says U.S. defense bill may split Iraq

People's Daily Online

(Xinhua) 19:47, April 29, 2015

BAGHDAD, April 29 -- Iraq's firebrand Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr on Wednesday threatened to hit the U.S. interests in and out of Iraq over a proposed defense bill yet to be approved by the U.S., which he said could divide Iraq.

'The U.S. House of Representatives intends to pass a draft law on Iraq making each sect independent from the other, and this will be the beginning of Iraq's division,' Sadr said in a statement.

If the U.S. passes such law, 'then we will be obliged to lift the freeze on the military wing which is tasked with (fighting) the American side, to start hit the U.S. interests in Iraq and even abroad possibly,' Sadr warned.

The U.S. House Armed Services Committee on April 27 released a defense bill which is scheduled to be debated and voted on in the committee on April 29.

The bill suggested that at least 25 percent of 715 million dollars of U.S. aid to Iraqi forces to be allocated to the Kurdish Peshmerga and the Sunni tribal militias and a yet-to-be-established Iraqi Sunni National Guard.

Many Iraqi Shiite parties have denounced the bill, saying that such move would empower the Sunni and Kurdish minorities and could break the country up.

Sadr also urged the Iraqi government and the country's parliament to adopt a strong response to the U.S. bill, the statement said, adding that the Iraqi people have to protect their land by rejecting and denouncing such move that could divide the country.

Since 2007, Moqtada al-Sadr repeatedly renewed his order to his militia group named Mahdi Army to freeze activities against U.S. troops after clashes with Iraqi security forces and other rival Shiite militia, and then he continued his militia's freeze after the withdrawal of the U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011.

The bill came as the Kurds and Sunni tribes demanding aid for their own fighters to fight the IS group in the predominantly Sunni provinces in Iraq to replace the Shiite-dominated security forces and allied Shiite militias, which have been accused of looting, burning and steeling the people properties in the Sunni areas freed recently from the IS militants.

However, the accusations have been strongly denied or played down by the Shiite militia leaders and their leading parties in the Iraqi predominantly Shiite government.

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