Thousands Protest in Iraq Against American Troops

  • Sadr also demanded the closure of all US military bases, the removal of security companies in Iraq, and a ban on US military flights into Iraqi airspace.
  • This is the second such march against the United States since the killing of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and Shi'ite militia leaders on January 3.
  • Iraq previously passed a law to expel foreign troops from the country, especially American ones.

Thousands of people responded to a call by Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to protest on Friday against the presence of the United States troops on Iraqi soil. A spokesperson read al-Sadr’s statement during the demonstration, in which he called for the cancellation of all security agreements between Iraq and the United States.

Muqtada al-Sadr is an Iraqi Shia cleric, politician and militia leader. He is the leader of the Sadrist Movement and the leader of Saraya al-Salam, a Shia militia that is a reformation of the previous militia he led during the American occupation of Iraq, the Mahdi Army.

He also demanded the closure of all US military bases, the removal of security companies in Iraq, and a ban on US military flights into Iraqi airspace. “If all this is implemented, we will deal with it as a non-occupying country— otherwise, it will be considered a country hostile to Iraq,” the clergyman said in his statement.

To ensure the security of the “peaceful demonstration of one million people against the American presence,” checkpoints were placed along the route of the protesters. The concentration of the march took place in the Khadriya neighborhood, in front of the Green Zone, where the embassies of various countries, as well as the Iraq government buildings, are located. Cries of “out, occupier,” and “yes to sovereignty” filled the air.

“The return of protesters to Tahrir is meant to prove ourselves, first, and to protect its peacefulness,” Karrar al-Saadi, a demonstrator in the square, told AFP. Sadr asked the American president, Donald Trump, not to be “arrogant.” The protest was supported by pro-Iranian Shiite militias, such as the Popular Mobilization Forces, who are generally opposed to the figure of Sadr.

The Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), also known as the People’s Mobilization Committee (PMC) and the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) is an Iraqi state-sponsored umbrella organization composed of some 40 militias that are mostly Shia Muslim groups, but also include Sunni Muslim, Christian, and Yazidi groups. The popular mobilization units as a group was formed in 2014 and have fought in nearly every major battle against ISIL.

This is the second such march against the United States since the killing of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and Shi’ite militia leaders on January 3 by an American drone attack in Baghdad. The perceived violation of sovereignty has caused repudiation in much of the Iraqi population. Iraq is a country with a Shiite majority, with a wide Iranian influence on society, the army, paramilitary groups, and politics.

Iraq previously passed a law to expel foreign troops from the country, especially American ones. Passing the law suspended the activities of the International Coalition operating in Iraq against the Islamic State until the legal situation has been resolved. Sadr is a longtime opponent of the United States’ presence in Iraq.

Between 2003 and 2011, he led a paramilitary group called the Mahdi Army that clashed with American troops. Currently, the clergyman is the main figure in Parliament. Sadr called himself a “reformer,” and showed his support for protests calling for political reform in Iraq.

Since the Americans killed the powerful Iranian General, Qassem Soleimani, and his Iraqi confidant, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, on January 3, the American military presence in Iraq has been under pressure. The Iraqi Parliament adopted a resolution asking the government to stop the presence of foreign soldiers in the country as quickly as possible. There are currently 5,000 US soldiers present in Iraq.

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Vincent otegno

News reporting is my thing. My view of what is happening in our world is colored by my love of history and how the past influences events taking place in the present time.  I like reading politics and writing articles. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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