Early on Friday morning, throngs of protesters – men and women, young and old – began amassing at al-Hurriya Square in central Baghdad, near the city’s main university. The anti-America rally, dubbed the “Million-man March,” was called by Moqtada al-Sadr, Iraq’s top Shiite cleric.
Some were wearing white robes, symbolizing their readiness to die for a religious cause, while others were pictured holding signs that read: “To the families of American soldiers – insist on the withdrawal of [your] sons from our country or prepare their coffins!”
“Get out, get out, occupier!” protesters shouted, while others chanted, “Yes to sovereignty!”
Security forces have cordoned off main roads in the capital, and the city’s Green Zone – home to foreign embassies and government premises – was barricaded with concrete barriers.
There are no reports yet on protesters heading for the US embassy, but a banner warning against crossing the barriers has reportedly been erected outside the mission.
The march comes just weeks after Iraq was shaken by an American drone strike near Baghdad airport, which killed Iran’s top General Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy chief of Iraq’s Shia militia, along with other officers.
Aside from triggering a flare-up of military tensions and a retaliatory Iranian strike on US bases in Iraq, the killing sparked outrage among those Iraqis who see the 16-year American troop presence in their country as an unlawful occupation.
Official Baghdad, for its part, blamed Washington for breaching its sovereignty, with the lawmakers of the Islamic republic having passed a non-binding resolution calling on the government to expel all foreign troops from the country.
US media has suggested that the Pentagon was planning the withdrawal of its 5,000 troops from Iraq, but these reports were officially refuted afterwards.
Source: Russia Today, January 24, 2020