(MENAFN - Arab Times) Oman trying to reduce tensions
Followers of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr chant pro-peace slogans during a sit-in at Tahrir Square in Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, May 24, 2019. Thousands of supporters of an Iraqi populist Shiite cleric held sit-ins around Iraq saying their country should not be a battlefield between the United States and Iran. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)
DUBAI, May 25, (Agencies): Politicians and Shi'ite paramilitary leaders have called for calm and the Iraqi government has tried to position itself as a mediator between the two sides. 'We've just recovered from Islamic State. Iraq must not be used as a base to try to harm any country. America doesn't want Iraq to be stable,' said protester Abu Ali Darraji.
There was speculation that Sadr would speak to demonstrators in Baghdad but he did not appear. The firebrand leader, whose political bloc came first in Iraq's parliamentary election last year, is a friend of neither Washington nor Shi'ite Iran.
The United States once described Sadr as the most dangerous man in Iraq, and designated his militia at the time, the Mehdi Army, a bigger threat to its forces than al Qaeda during an insurgency against US troops after their 2003 invasion. Sadr campaigned last year on a platform of Iraqi nationalism, opposed to both US and Iranian influence in the country.
Oman is trying 'with other parties' to reduce tensions between the United States and Iran, the Omani Foreign Ministry tweeted on Friday. The tweet cited Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, the sultanate's minister responsible for foreign affairs, who met on Monday in Tehran with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
'There is a danger that a war breaks out, hurting the whole world … Both parties, the American and the Iranian, are aware of the danger,' the tweet cited the Omani minister as saying in an interview with an Arabic publication. Oman maintains friendly ties with both the United States and Iran and has previously been an important go-between for the two countries, which severed diplomatic relations in 1980. Washington and Tehran are in a protracted stand-off over Iran's nuclear and missile programmes.
Iran will not surrender to US pressure and will not abandon its goals even if it is bombed, President Hassan Rouhani said on Thursday, stepping up the war of words between the Islamic Republic and the United States. Earlier in the day, Iran's top military chief said the standoff between Tehran and Washington was a 'clash of wills', warning that any enemy 'adventurism' would meet a crushing response, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.
Tensions are festering between the two countries after Washington sent more military forces to the Middle East in a show of force against what US officials say are Iranian threats to its troops and interests in the region. Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on Thursday confirmed that the Pentagon was considering sending yet further US troops to the Middle East as one of the ways to bolster protection for American forces there.