Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr
Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr REUTERS

Moving the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the Israeli capital, Jerusalem, would be a declaration of war on Islam, influential Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr said Tuesday.

"Transferring the US embassy to Jerusalem would be a public and more-explicit-than-ever declaration of war against Islam," he said in a statement.

Al-Sadr responded to reports by the White House that deliberations on the possible move had begun.

On Sunday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer acknowledged the Trump administration was examining the issue, but emphasized deliberations had only just begun on the matter.

"We are at the very beginning stages of even discussing this subject."

On the campaign trail, President Donald Trump pledged to relocate the US embassy
from Tel Aviv to the Israeli capital, implementing a law passed by congress in 1995.

Over the past two decades, presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama have used security waivers to defer transfer of the embassy from Tel Aviv.

Sadr, a firebrand Shiite cleric whose militia once fought US occupation forces in Iraq, called for the "formation of a special division to liberate Jerusalem were the decision to be implemented."

Sadr said the Cairo-based Arab League as well as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the world's main pan-Islamic body, should take a decisive stand on the issue or disband.

The Najaf-based cleric also called "for the immediate closure of the US embassy in Iraq" should Washington go ahead with its promised embassy transfer in Israel.

Sadr supporters protesting against the lack of services and widespread corruption in the Iraqi state stormed the so-called "Green Zone" in Baghdad twice last year.

The protesters entered the parliament buildings and the Prime Minister's office but did not threaten the US embassy there, which is Washington's largest foreign mission.

AFP contributed to this report