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  • Demonstration against the U.S. military presence in Iraqi territory, Baghdad, Iraq, Jan. 24, 2020.

    Demonstration against the U.S. military presence in Iraqi territory, Baghdad, Iraq, Jan. 24, 2020. | Photo: Reuters

Published 24 January 2020

The "Million Man March" convened by Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr exceeded expectations.

According to estimates of the Iraqi police commander Jaafar Al-Batat, over 1 million people Thursday demanded the departure of U.S. troops from Iraq with a march in Baghdad, which was convened by cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr three weeks after the murder of Iran's General Qasem Soleimani.

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At the country's capital, streets were filled with an endless column of people who paraded to express their repudiation of the U.S. military presence.

Banners showed slogans such as "No, No to the U.S. and Yes to Iraqi sovereignty," "The willingness of free nations is stronger than the U.S. aggression," and "Global terrorism is made in the U.S."

While some protesters burned images of Donald Trump, others marched raising photos of the U.S. president's face crossed out with a red "X".

"We have not obtained anything from the U.S. except problems, wars, and sieges," Ziyad Qasim Abdullah, a 39-year-old chauffeur, said.

The U.S. has "created sectarian conflicts in Iraq and divided people to plunder the wealth of our country," he added and explained that he wants to "expel the occupation forces" from his country.

Initially, the U.S. government justified the presence of its troops in Iraq by arguing the fight against the Islamic State, which managed to control large areas of Iraqi territory in 2014.

Since the defeat of this radical group in 2017, however, those troops have not been removed from this country.

As a result of the events unleashed by Jan. 3 bombings, in which Iran's General Qassem Soleimani was killed, the Iraqi parliament approved a procedure for the departure of foreign troops​​​​​​​.

"If the U.S. meets these demands, then it is not an aggressor country," Al-Sadr said and added that if the U.S. will become a "hostile country" if it violates the conditions specified for its departure.

The highest Shiite religious authority in Iraq, Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, also reaffirmed today "the need to respect the sovereignty of Iraq, the independence of its political decision, and its territorial unity."

For his part, Iraq's President Barham Salih posted a photo of Friday's march on social media and wrote that Iraqis deserved a "fully sovereign state that serves its people."

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