Protesters march in Baghdad, demanding US troops leave Iraq
Iraqi MPs voted for foreign troops to leave their country after the US killing of top Iranian general Qassem Suleimani in Baghdad in January
Hundreds of protesters gathered in Baghdad on Saturday to demand US troops leave the country in accordance with a parliament vote earlier this year.
“We will choose resistance if parliament’s vote is not ratified!” read one of the banners at the demonstration, which took place near an entrance to the high-security Green Zone, which includes the US embassy and other foreign missions.
Others carried signs bearing the logo of Hashd Al Shaabi, a state-sponsored network of armed groups including many supported by Iraq’s powerful neighbour Iran.
Following a US strike on Baghdad in January that the US killing of top Iranian general Qassem Suleimani and Kataib Hezbollah commander Abu Mahdi Al Muhandis in January, outraged Iraqi MPs voted to oust all foreign forces in the country.
The US has sent thousands of troops to Iraq since 2014 to lead an international coalition helping Baghdad fight ISIS.
Washington has drawn down those forces in recent months to about 3,000, and other coalition countries have also shrunk their footprint.
Since October 2019, those troops were regular targets of missiles, as were diplomats at the US embassy.
In the summer, there was a marked increase in attacks against coalition logistics convoys using roadside bombs.
Although no one claimed the attacks, Washington has blamed militias backed by Iran.
The US in late September issued a threat to close its Baghdad embassy and carry out bombing raids against hard-line elements of the Hashed, due to the sharp rise in attacks in Iraq.
Pro-Iran factions announced a temporary truce in October that put an end to the attacks, with no rockets fired at the embassy or foreign troops since.
Iraq has long been caught in the struggle for influence between its two main allies, the US and Iran, with the tug-of-war intensifying under US president Donald Trump.
Baghdad has been closely monitoring the results of the US presidential elections, seeing a change in the White House as a sign that tension between Washington and Tehran could decrease.
Meanwhile, a young demonstrator was shot dead in the southern Iraqi city of Basra on Friday and gunmen killed a prominent activist in the capital, police and medics said.
They said Omar Fadhel was killed in the centre of Basra, while at about the same time a key figure in anti-government protests launched in Baghdad in October 2019 was gunned down with a silencer as he drove through an eastern district.
Updated: November 7, 2020 10:20 PM