Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr speaks to a gathering of supporters in Baghdad. AP photo
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — The firebrand Shiite leader in Iraq, Muqtada al-Sadr, says the Syrian people are the only victims of the United States’ meddling in the country’s affairs, and describes the US role in the region as negative. Sadr also called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to resign and external parties and forces to withdraw.
"The US should stay away from the crossfire of war in Syria," said Sadr.
Sadr issued a statement on the US attack on the Syrian government’s Shayrat air base in central Syria from where warplanes allegedly carrying chemicals weapons had taken off and later dropped on the city of Khan Sheikhun in Idlib province.
“All the external parties and their forces must withdraw from Syria,” he reiterated. “I also call on Bashar al-Assad to resign.”
He also said Syria would turn to another Vietnam for the US if it continues to act militarily.
In part of the message, he said the US on the one hand kills civilians in Mosul, while on the other hand, it condemns chemical attacks in Syria.
The United States struck the Syrian base with 59 cruise missiles launched from the USS Ross and USS Porter in the Mediterranean Sea early Friday morning in retaliation to suspected gruesome chemical weapons attack on Tuesday.
The White Helmets, a Syrian Civil Defense volunteer group which goes into areas immediately after they’ve been attacked stated in a press release on Friday that 89 people, including 33 children and 18 women, had been killed and 541 injured in Khan Sheikhun.
The World Health Organization stated that the cases are consistent with nerve agent exposures.
President Donald Trump cast the US assault as vital to deter future use of poison gas and called on other nations to join in seeking "to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria."
It was the first direct US assault on the Syrian government and Trump's most dramatic military order since becoming president just over two months ago. The strikes also risk thrusting the US deeper into an intractable conflict that his predecessor spent years trying to avoid.
Trump said there was no doubt Syrian President Bashar Assad was responsible for the chemical attack.
"Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children," Trump declared.
The move drew condemnation from Russia and Iran and praise from many western countries including France, Britain and Germany.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi condemned the use of chemical weapons in Syria to in a telephone call with US Vice President Mike Pence, according to a readout from the office of the PM.
“[The] Prime Minister assured [Pence] that Iraq considered the use of the chemical weapons in Syria is a convicted crime and condemned them,” the statement read.
“We stand with the Syrian people who are victims just like Iraqi were victims of ousted regime's chemical strikes,” it added. “For that we call for urgent and precise international investigation and condemn any side made such an act.”