UAE pushes for better ties with Al-Sadr amid efforts to contain Iran

Author: ReutersMon, 2017-08-14 13:47ID: 1502730634410122300BAGHDAD: The UAE signaled its desire to strengthen ties with Iraq during weekend talks with influential Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr as part of efforts by Sunni nations of the Middle East to halt Iran’s growing regional influence.
Al-Sadr met Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi and deputy commander of the UAE armed forces on Sunday in Abu Dhabi, according to a senior aide of the cleric.
Al-Sadr also discussed ways of improving understanding between the Sunni and Shiite branches of Islam, at a meeting on Monday with a prominent Sunni cleric in Abu Dhabi.
“The two sides emphasized the importance to act in true Islamic spirit and reject violence and extremist thought,” Al-Sadr’s office in Baghdad said in a statement on his website on Monday, reporting on his meeting with Emirati cleric Ahmed Al-Kubaisi.
Closer ties with Al-Sadr, who commands a large following among the urban poor of Baghdad and southern Iraq, would help Sunni states loosen Tehran’s grip over Iraq’s Shiite community and contain its influence.
The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain severed relations with Qatar on June 5, accusing the major gas-exporting Gulf state of financing terrorism, meddling in the affairs of Arab countries and cozying up to their arch-rival Iran.
Al-Sadr is one of few Iraqi Shiite leaders to keep some distance from Iran. In April, he became the first Iraqi Shiite leader to call on Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down, marking his difference with Iran and Iranian-backed Iraqi militias backing the Syrian regime.
“Experience has taught us to always call for what brings Arabs and Muslims together, and to reject the advocates of division,” the Abu Dhabi crown prince told Al-Sadr, according to report on the Emirati state-run news agency WAM.
The Iraqi cleric’s trip to Abu Dhabi comes two weeks after a visit to Saudi Arabia, where he met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Al-Sadr’s office said his meeting with Mohammed bin Salman at the end of July resulted in an agreement to study possible investments in Shiite regions of southern Iraq.
The Saudis will consider the possibility of opening a consulate in Iraq’s city of Najaf, it said. Al-Sadr also announced a Saudi decision to donate $10 million to help Iraqis displaced by the war on Daesh in Iraq, to be paid to the Iraqi government.
Main category: Middle-EastTags: UAEBaghdadMoqtada Al-SadrIraqi Shiite clericrelated_nodes: Iraq’s Moqtada Al-Sadr visits UAE, strengthening ties with Sunni statesSaudi crown prince meets with Iraq’s Moqtada Al-Sadr

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