For the first time in years, the Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr and his militia are unleashing fiery anti-American rhetoric and threatening to attack U.S. troops.
But top U.S. military officials have downplayed his remarks, saying that for now there’s no cause for concern.
Sadr rose to prominence when his Mahdi Army battled U.S. troops after the 2003 invasion. He has quietly tolerated the comparatively small U.S. military force there now supporting the war on Islamic State extremists. But the powerful cleric became confrontational again after Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced plans on July 11 to send an additional 560 U.S. troops to Iraq, bringing the total to more than 4,600.
“They are a target for us,” Sadr said in a post on his official website on July 17.