Influential Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr backs US campus pro-Palestine protests

Influential Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr backs US campus pro-Palestine protests
Al-Sadr has also called on for US police to halt its crackdown on pro-Palestinian protests that have swept US universities in recent weeks.
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Iraq, like other countries in the region, has expressed support for Gaza [Getty/file photo]

Iraqi religious leader Moqtada al-Sadr on Saturday expressed his support for pro-Palestinian encampments at universities in the United States and called for an end to police action against them.

"We call for a halt to the crackdown on voices advocating for peace and freedom," Sadr said in a statement.

"The voice of American universities demanding an end to Zionist terrorism is our voice."

Sadr once led a militia fighting American forces following the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein.

He retains a devoted following of millions among the country's majority Shia Muslim population, and wields great influence over Iraqi politics.

Protests and encampments have taken place at campuses across the United States, Israel's largest military supplier and long-term ally..

Student protesters say they are expressing solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza, where Israel has killed at least 34,388, mostly women and children, since Israel began waging its war on October 7.

In response to the growing protests, police have carried out large-scale arrests across the country, at times using chemical irritants and Tasers to disperse activists.

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All Iraqi political factions support the Palestinian cause, and like its neighbour Iran, Israel's regional arch-foe, Iraq does not recognise the Israeli state.

Aditionally, pro-Iran militias in Iraq have carried out a series of attacks on US army bases in the country, in repose to Washington's allyship with Israel.