Washington has long evaded responsibility for war crimes it committed in Iraq.
Prominent Iraqi political leader Muqtada Al Sadr has called on the national team to avoid being influenced by any political parties, including himself, following Iraq’s victory at the Arabian Gulf Cup.
Advising the Iraqi national football team, the leader of the Sadrist Movement Muqtada Al-Sadr said the team should prepare for the upcoming FIFA World Cup despite it being held in the United States.
“The preparation is not easy, and it will take a lot of dedication and teamwork to get to the World Cup, which will be our biggest joy after the Arab Gulf Cup,” the Shia leader said.
“I also advise you not to be affected by the political atmosphere. You should not be affected by politics, whether negatively or positively, because you represent the country and the people, not the politicians, not even me,” Al-Sadr added, according to Iraqi News Agency.
Iraq was crowned the Arabian Gulf Cup championship for the fourth time in history after defeating Oman 3-2 in Basra on Thursday.
Meeting the Iraqi football team after their well-fought victory, Al-Sadr went on to praise the team and express his gratitude over the triumph, which “brought joy and happiness to the oppressed Iraqi people”.
He also said that while playing professionally outside of Iraq is crucial for experience, athletes should prioritise the national team.
“Your country, your nation and your people should be your priority. Your first goal is to support the homeland,” Al-Sadr said, pointing out that “respect for the coach and the training and administrative staff is essential.”
The prominent Shia figure also advised the team to avoid some of the commentary targeting them on social media and do away with “fame-seeking” and the consequent arrogance.
“You must be humble and look for the interest of the country,” he said, highlighting the need to focus on physical fitness, intellect and culture, instead.
Al-Sadr also called on the players to learn the English language prior to their possible international debut and urged for unity among the players as they set their sights on playing in the World Cup in the United States.
Iraq has been drenched in violence and corruption since the United States launched a deadly invasion back in 2003, though Washington has long evaded responsibility for war crimes it committed there.
US war crimes in Iraq
Throughout the invasion, US-led occupation forces carried out various atrocities across the country, including murder, rape, and the serial slaughter of civilians in areas likes Haditha, Hamandiya, Sadr City, Samarra, and Ishaqi.
The Pentagon has covered up the majority of these crimes and cleared the accused soldiers, though some cases have been brought before military commissions. Military prosecutors have focused their efforts only on a small number of low-ranking soldiers, rather than high-ranking officials and senior officers, reports have found.
Washington alleges such atrocities were carried out by a “few bad apples”.
In 2003, the United States bypassed the United Nations and violated the fundamental rule of international law prohibiting the use of force, which amounted to aggression against Iraq.
Approximately 209,000 Iraqi civilians perished in wars and other violent conflicts between 2003 and 2021, while 9.2 million Iraqis fled their country as refugees or were otherwise compelled to do so, according to Statista, a global statistical database.