Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr announced on Thursday that US presence, whether civilian or military, after the year-end would not be tolerated. In a recent interview, Sadr said that “We do not accept any kind of U.S. presence in Iraq, whether it is military or not.” He further states that any presence, even non military of the Americans would be viewed as an occupation. The cleric vowed that such presence would be resisted, whatever the cost.
Sadr, who is the leader of Mehdi Army, dismissed concerns that the withdrawal of US troops would create a security vacuum in Iraq. He said the Iraqi government was capable of maintain peace in the country. 33000 US troops are expected to be pulled out of Iraq by Dec 31, 2011. However a US embassy in Baghdad, along with consular operations in Bara and Arbil are expected to be maintained in the country.