Iraq Will Not Take Sides Amid U.S.-Iran Tensions, Deputy Prime Minister Says

Popular clerics in the past have spoke against Baghdad getting involved in the dispute despite the fact that the country remains largely dependent on Iran for gas supplies

Iraqi Oil Minister Thamer Ghadhban speaks to the media at the ministry's headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq, May 8, 2019.
\ KHALID AL-MOUSILY/ REUTERS

Iraq will not take sides amid tensions in the Middle East, the Iraqi deputy prime minister said on Thursday, as tensions between the United States and Iran escalated.

"We shall not align ourselves with certain countries or be party in an alliance against others," Thamer Ghadhban, who is also Iraq's oil minister, said in London.

>> Read more: Trump's catch-22: Iraq's dependence on Iranian gas | Analysis 

Recent events in the Middle East, particularly in the Gulf of Oman, "posed a serious threat to peace in the region and the free and uninterrupted passage of oil tankers through the Strait of Hormuz," he told the CWC Iraq Petroleum Conference.

In May, influential Shi'ite clerics Moqtada al-Sadr and Qais al-Khazali warned against getting involved in the conflict, saying it would turn Iraq into a battlefield and inflict much harm.

Iraq's populist Shi'ite cleric al-Sadr said in a statement that any political party that would involve Iraq in a U.S.-Iran war "would be the enemy of the Iraqi people."

Al-Khazali, the leader of an Iranian-backed group, said he is opposed to operations that "give pretexts for war." As U.S.-Iran tensions escalate, there've been concerns that Baghdad could once again get caught in the middle.