The anger against the presence of US soldiers in Iraq is spilling on to the streets. Thousands of university students protested in Baghdad on January 26, Sunday, to demand an end to all foreign interference in the country. Sunday’s protest follows a million-man march on Friday to demand the expulsion of US forces from Iraq.
The protesters marched through Baghdad chanting “No No America” and denouncing US president Donald Trump’s war attempts.
While Sunday’s protest was against all foreign interference in the country, Friday’s march had a clear anti-American stand. The million-man march was called by Muqtada al-Sadr, the leader of the largest block in the Iraqi parliament, and was supported by Hadi al-Ameri, leader of the second largest block. The call for the march was given after the assassination of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in a US drone attack in Baghdad on January 3.
Following the assassination, the Iraqi parliament had passed a resolution demanding the withdrawal of all foreign troops from the country.
In a statement, Muqata al-Sadr had asked for the closure of all bases for the US soldiers in Iraq. He also demanded the cancellation of the security arrangements with the US, along with the denial of access to Iraqi airspace.
Sadr had given a call for another march on Sunday. However, it was withdrawn at the last moment in order “to avoid internal strife,” Al-Jazeera reported. Sadr also announced his party’s withdrawal from the anti-government protests.
Iraqis have been protesting for systemic reforms in the country’s political system since October 2019. One protester was killed and several others were wounded when security forces opened fire on anti-government protesters on Sunday.
In another development, three rockets hit the US embassy in the high-security green zone in Baghdad early on Monday morning. This was the third such attack this month. Such attacks have increased post the assassination of Soleimani. It is often claimed that they are carried out by factions within the Popular Mobilisation Forces/Units (PMF) which are semi-government militias and erstwhile allies of the US forces in the war against the Islamic State.