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Sadr Calls for “Million Man March’ as US Refuses to Leave Iraq

Following the Trump Administration’s double-assassination of both Iraq’s and Iran’s leading military commanders, the US immediately faced calls from the Iraqi Parliament to remove its 5,000 troops and personnel from the country. In typical colonial fashion, the Trump Administration then threatened Baghdad with economic sanctions for daring to act independently by asking US forces to leave their country – and finally freeing itself from a 17 year-long US military occupation. Of course, it wasn’t going to end there.

Adding further insult to injury, the White House then resorted to blackmail by threatening to close Iraq’s crucial oil trading account located at the US Federal Reserve Bank in New York.

Washington’s attempts at dominating Iraq continued to backfire this week, as influential religious and military figures joined in solidarity against the increasingly punitive policies of the United States.

Foreign Policy magazine describes the rapid sea change created by recent ham-fisted US actions:

And so Suleimani may now be closer to achieving in death what he was unable to produce in life: a countermovement to the demonstrations, one that pivots Iraq back toward Iran and solidifies its political establishment. Suleimani’s assassination by the Americans has provided a much-needed shot of legitimacy to Iraq’s unpopular—and Shiite-dominated—leadership, who have not only close links to Iran but also a vested interest in suppressing the domestic popular movement against them. 

This renewed coalition is also creating friction with US-backed ‘student’ protesters who had previously destablized parts of the county this past autumn. All of this is setting the stage for another potential political confrontation in Iraq, but one which may net very different results from what was witnessed before Christmas.

Al Jazeera reports…

Iraq’s populist Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr has called for a “million-man march” against the presence of United States troops in Iraq just days after the country’s parliament voted to expel foreign troops from Iraq.

“The skies, land and sovereignty of Iraq are being violated every day by occupying forces,” Sadr, who also leads the Sairoon political bloc, wrote on Twitter.

He told Iraqis to hold “a million-man, peaceful, unified demonstration to condemn the American presence and its violations”, without specifying a date or location for the march.

On January 5, Iraq’s parliament passed a resolution that called on the government to expel foreign troops and cancel its request for assistance from the US-led coalition that had been working with Baghdad to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) group.

Around 5,000 US troops are left in Iraq – most of them soldiers who came to Iraq in an advisory capacity to help the Iran-backed Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF, or Hashd al-Shaabi), an umbrella group of mostly Iran-backed Shia paramilitary groups, from 2014 to 2017 in their fight against ISIL.

The parliament vote came after US air strikes killed Iran’s General Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi paramilitary commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis just outside Baghdad International Airport in a move ordered by US President Donald Trump.

SEE ALSO: Trump Stands Down Against Iran, U.S. Still in Denial of ‘New Middle East’

Sadr condemned parliament’s resolution as a “weak response”, saying the move fell short of an appropriate reaction to recent developments in Iraq and calling on armed groups in Iraq to unite.

In a letter to parliament read out by a supporter at the time, Sadr listed a number of demands, including the immediate cancellation of the security agreement with the US, closure of the US embassy, expulsion of US troops in a “humiliating manner”, and the criminalisation of communication with the US government.

On Monday, Sadr held a meeting with leaders of several armed groups within the PMF in the Iranian city of Qom.

The meeting was also attended by Kataib Hezbollah, the Iraqi armed group whose 25 fighters were killed when the US launched air strikes against it on December 30, 2019, in response to the killing of a US civilian contractor two days earlier.


NOTE: 21WIRE has previously reported on how supposed ‘grassroots’ protests are often conceived or co-opted by the US regime change agents of influence, namely the US State Department, CIA, or through a familiar conclave of US and European-based “pro-democracy” NGOs. This appears to have been the case in Iraq too, as evidenced during October-December 2019 protests with Washington actively encouraging anti-Iranian sectarian divisions – which quickly escalated into violence clashes with Iraqi police reacting to protesters using arson as a weapon of desablization, burning buildings and also the Iranian consulate. In early December, Washington used the opportunity to launch a raft of new sanctions against supposed “Iranian militia,” which are really Iraqi People’s Mobilization (PMU) militias – foreshadowing what would take place in the closing days of 2019, nearly leading to a full-scale war with Iran. This action culminated in the forced resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi. Somewhat predictably, these same US-backed protesters are now framing events of the last three weeks as a “Shia” and “Iranian” issue, as opposed to Iraqi independence and are curiously aligned with nearly all of Washington’s positions and policies.

Here, Al Jazeera reports how these same student protesters are mirroring US demands, and seem to be in opposition to Sadr’s calls to end the US military occupation of Iraq:

But in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, the hub of the protest movement in the capital, demonstrators rejected Sadr’s calls on Tuesday, saying they want escalating tensions between Iran and the US to be moved out of the country.

“We reject these calls [for the march] because they have nothing to do with our demands,” a 20-year-old university student, Jaber al-Khalili, told Al Jazeera from the protests’ roundabout.

“We are not interested in Sadr’s calls or those of any other political leader. We want them [political leaders] all gone.”

Ali Khraybit, a 27-year-old filmmaker and protester, agreed.

“This call is specific to supporters and member of the Shia armed and political groups. These calls have nothing to do with our demands as protesters,” said Khraybit…

Continue this report at Al Jazeera

READ MORE IRAQ NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Iraq Files




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