Shamkhani hails Iraqi people’s historic anti-U.S. rally

January 24, 2020 - 19:38

TEHRAN — Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), has said the historic demonstration in neighboring Iraq shows the Iraqi nation’s move toward expelling the U.S. from the region.

“The fact that millions of Iraqi people attended the rally showed that the U.S. threat to impose sanctions against that country is a rotten tool that cannot impact the determination of governments and nations that are after their independence and national sovereignty,” Shamkhani said on Friday, ISNA reported.

A huge throng of protesters attended a rally to demand that American troops leave the country amid heightened anti-U.S. sentiment after a drone strike ordered by Donald Trump earlier this month killed a top Iranian general in the Iraqi capital.

According to the New York Times, since mid-morning on the Muslim day of prayers, loudspeakers blasted “No, no America!” at a central square in the Iraqi capital. A child held up a poster reading, “Death to America. Death to Israel.”

Roads and bridges leading to the heavily fortified Green Zone, the seat of Iraq's government and home to several foreign embassies, including the U.S. Embassy, were blocked off by concrete barriers. Iraqi security forces stood guard, blocking access to the gates to the zone.

There was a heavy security presence as the protesters, mostly hailing from the capital but also Iraq's southern provinces, walked on foot to an assembly point in Baghdad's Jadriya neighborhood, waving Iraqi flags and wearing symbolic white shrouds.

Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose party won the most number of seats in the May 2018 parliament elections, had called for a “million-man” demonstration to demand the withdrawal of American troops following the U.S. drone strike near Baghdad's airport that killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and senior Iraqi PMU commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, sparking the ire of Iraqi officials from across the political spectrum.

In a statement Friday, al-Sadr — whose followers fought U.S. troops after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion to oust dictator Saddam Hussein — issued a list of conditions for American military presence in Iraq. The list includes cancelling existing security agreements, closing U.S. military bases, ending the work of American security companies and closing off access to Iraqi airspace.

If the conditions were met, the statement said, “the resistance will temporarily stop until the last soldier leaves Iraq,” al-Sadr said, referring to American troops.

MH/PA

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