Controversial Iraqi politician Muqtada al-Sadr tried to insert himself into the increasing U.S./Iran tensions this week with a series of heated and unusual insults at President Donald Trump, dismissing the U.S. commander in chief as “the son of gambling halls.”
The Shia cleric has long been a critic of U.S. military presence in the Middle East and a key figure behind violence against American forces during the Iraq War. Fighting between his militias and U.S. forces in Iraq were among the bloodiest battles of that conflict.
He commands a sizable block of the Iraqi parliament and has continued to criticize U.S. involvement in the region in recent years.
In recent days he has pushed for the Iraqi government to expel U.S. troops in the wake of Trump’s airstrike to kill Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of an elite arm of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, near the Baghdad Airport.
That criticism reached a fever pitch on Monday evening, with al-Sadr posting a lengthy screed taunting Trump for his past casino empire and his current bravado.
“Your home is less stable than spider web. Your weapon is weaker than mosquito bites,” he wrote. “Your voice and tweets are more strident than sound of donkey.”
The cleric also asked Trump if he “forgot Vietnam, or are you anxious for a new swamp?” And he pledged that his followers would rise up to defend Iran if Trump invades the country.
“Your intentions have become clear today. He who wanted to liberate us yesterday, today wants us on our knees,” he wrote. “If you want my advice, don’t be like your predecessor (a reference to former President George W. Bush) or else you shall regret it.”
Much of the public discourse between Trump and foreign leaders in the region has devolved into name-calling and threats in recent days.
Over the weekend, Trump tweeted that if American or allied sites are attacked by Iran, "some very high level (sites) important to Iran and the Iranian culture… will be hit very fast and very hard.”
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.