Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr calls on his supporters to stop protests and clashes with Iranian-backed groups

BAGHDAD — On Tuesday, Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr issued an apology to the Iraqi people for the bloodshed in the wake of his resignation and told his supporters to stop protesting and thanked the security forces for their neutrality during the tension situation in the capital and elsewhere.

“This is not a revolution because it has lost its peaceful character,” he said during a brief televised address. “The spilling of Iraqi blood is forbidden.”

Following his address, al-Sadr’s supporters withdrew for positions they had taken in Baghdad’s Green Zone.

As calm was gradually restored, the Iraqi Army lifted the national curfew that has been in place since Monday.

The fighting, primarily between Sadrists and members of Iranian-backed militias, that has consumed the south of the country left at least 23 dead.

For the past 20 years, al-Sadr (48) has dominated Iraqi public and political life.

In the aftermath of the 2003 war that deposed Saddam Hussein, his Mehdi Army emerged as one of the most potent militias that battled the U.S. and the newly formed Iraqi Army.

A senior leader’s decision to leave politics has caused some of the worst violence in Baghdad in years, resulting in at least 23 deaths.

Formerly a friend of Iran, al-Sadr has shifted ideologically away from Tehran and moved towards Iraqi nationalism, claiming to want to end both U.S. and Iranian meddling in the country’s domestic affairs.