TEHRAN (Iran News) – Crowd of people in Iraq rallied to call for an end to the presence of US troops in the country following high-profile assassinations and airstrikes targeting anti-terror forces.
Sayed Sadiq al-Hashemi, the director of the Iraqi Center for Studies, said more than 2.5 million took part in the demonstrations on Friday.
Huge crowds of men, women, and children massed under gray skies in the Jadiriyah district of the Iraqi capital, chanting “Get out, get out occupier!” and “Yes to sovereignty!”
Some waved signs in Arabic and English reading “Death to America” and one protester carried a cardboard cut-out of US President Donald Trump on the gallows.
Iraq’s Al-Ahd news network reported that Iraqis from all of the country’s provinces had gathered in the city.
The massive rally came after Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called on Iraqis to stage “a million-strong, peaceful, unified demonstration to condemn the American presence and its violations.”
A representative of Sadr took to the stage at the protest site and read out a statement by the influential cleric.
It called for all foreign forces to leave Iraq, the cancelation of Iraq’s security agreements with the United States, the closure of Iraqi airspace to US military and surveillance aircraft and for Trump not to be “arrogant” when addressing Iraqi officials.
“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 statement said.
America’s military presence has been a hot-button issue in Iraq since a US strike assassinated Iranian Lt. Gen. Qassem Soleimani and top Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis outside Baghdad airport on January 3.
On January 5, the Iraqi parliament voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution calling for the expulsion of all foreign forces.
Iraq said the strike against Soleimani violated the mandate for the presence of around 5,200 US troops in the country.
Baghdad said it wanted to discuss a timeline for departure but US special envoy, James Jeffrey, said Thursday there was no “real engagement.”
Long opposed to the US troop presence, Sadr seized on the public anger over the drone strike to call “a million-strong, peaceful, unified demonstration to condemn the American presence and its violations.”
Military factions from the Hashd al-Shaabi force agreed to join. Qais al-Khazali, a Hashd commander, endorsed the rally.
“To Trump, the fool – the people’s message of rejection was clear: If you don’t leave voluntarily, you’ll be ousted despite yourself,” he tweeted.
Iraq’s top Shia authority, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, said in his weekly sermon on Friday that Iraqis had a right to protest “peacefully” in support of their country’s sovereignty.
He called on Iraqi groups to stand united, far from any foreign influence in countering the dangers which threaten the country.
AFP and Press TV contributed to this story.
- source : Reuters, Irannews