(BAGHDAD) — Firebrand Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr finds himself in the role of peacemaker in an attempt to calm a crisis that threatens to split Iraq.
Al-Sadr, who is pro-Iran and vehemently anti-America, traveled to Iraq’s semiautonomous northern Kurdish region on Thursday to try and convince its president, Massud Barzani, to give up secession plans.
Both the Kurds and Sunnis say they are being marginalized by the Shiite-dominated central government in Baghdad, with accusations that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is trying to consolidate as much power as possible.
Having already met with al-Maliki, the cleric seemed to be sympathetic to those on the outside of the government, saying, “Minorities are an important part of Iraq, and we have to bring them to participate in building Iraq, politically, economically and in security.”
He also called for “canceling the policy of neglect and marginalization.”
Al-Sadr says that he has an 18-point plan to end the stalemate that would be accomplished through inclusiveness and dialogue. Barzani is willing to give the government until September to change course or else he’ll call for an election to secede from Iraq.
Sunnis don’t have the same political sway. Their recourse instead is to launch insurgent attacks that have kept national security forces on a constant state of alert.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Paul Cruickshank and Michael Pearson, CNN