Iraqis march on Gen. Soleimani, al-Muhandis assassination anniversary

January 3, 2021 - 18:12
Mourners hold a mock funeral procession on the highway leading to Baghdad’s airport where the assassination took place

TEHRAN - People in Iraq attended nationwide rallies to commemorate the first anniversary of the U.S. assassination of top Iranian and Iraqi anti-terror commanders, Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

The rally in the capital Baghdad began at 1 p.m. local time (1000 GMT) on Sunday, with participants gathering at Tahrir Square, Press TV reported.

Iraq’s anti-terror Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), also known as Hashd al-Sha’abi, had called on the people to participate in the million-strong march, dubbed Days of Martyrdom and Sovereignty.

“We are here to commemorate the martyrdom of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Qassem Soleimani,” one of the demonstrators at Tahrir Square told the Rudaw news agency. “Let us not forget, they sacrificed a lot for Iraq and they defeated America in Iraq.”

Qais al-Khazali, the leader of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq movement, on Friday invited "every honorable citizen of this country to participate in the demonstration of Days of Martyrdom and Sovereignty on Sunday in Tahrir Square.”

Similar rallies took place in the provinces of Basra, Dhi Qar, Maysan, Wasit, and Muthanna on Sunday.

General Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), and PMU deputy head Muhandis were assassinated along with their companions in a U.S. drone strike authorized by President Donald Trump near Baghdad International Airport on January 3, 2020.

Both commanders were highly popular because of the key role they played in eliminating the Daesh terrorist group in the region, particularly in Iraq and Syria.

The assassination of General “was a flagrant instance of state terrorism,” Richard Anderson Falk, a professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University, tells the Tehran Times.

Two days after Washington’s assassination operation, Iraqi lawmakers approved a bill, demanding the withdrawal of all foreign military forces led by the United States from the country.

In the early hours of Sunday, a ceremony took place at Baghdad Airport to pay tribute to the martyred commanders.

Thousands of mourners joined a mock funeral procession on the highway leading to the airport.

According to Al-Jazeera, the scene of the bombing was turned into a shrine-like area sealed off by red ropes, with a photo of Soleimani and al-Muhandis in the middle, as mourners lit candles. 

“The protests are focused on demanding that the Iraqi government put pressure on the Americans to withdraw the remaining soldiers from the country,” Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford said. 

Professor Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, Chair of the Centre for Iranian Studies at the London Middle East Institute, commends General Soleimani’s leadership in the war against terrorists, especially ISIS. “I am on the record for saying that General Soleimani’s legacy will be primarily determined by his leadership in the fight against ISIS,” Adib-Moghaddam tells the Tehran Times.

Speaking at the Sunday event, PMU Chairman Falih al-Fayyadh said, "We are honored to be present at a place where the blood of Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the leaders of the path towards victory, was shed and their bodies were torn apart in the way of God.”
He called for the continuation of the path pursued by the resistance martyrs, emphasizing that the first step in avenging the assassination is to renew allegiance to the commanders.

“Hashd al-Sha’abi is an Ummah and this Ummah is always faithful to the pure blood that was shed,” he added.

Abu Hussain al-Hamidawi, the secretary-general of the Kata'ib Hezbollah group, which is part of the PMU, released a statement saying that resistance groups would allow no one to confiscate their weapons, which are used for defending the country.

"We will keep our promise with the commanders of victory on the path of honor and pride, and we turn into a thousand Soleimanis and Abu Mahdis, with the help of God Almighty,” Hamidavi noted.

Tensions between Tehran and Washington have been rising in the run-up to the first anniversary of the top Iranian general’s killing.

In a letter to the United Nations Security Council on Thursday, Iran condemned U.S. “military adventurism” in the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman, and “fake information, baseless accusations and threatening rhetoric” against Tehran.

A day earlier, the U.S. military flew two nuclear-capable B-52 bombers over the Persian Gulf in a message of deterrence to Iran, the latest in a series of such moves in the past month.

“New intelligence from Iraq indicate(s) that Israeli agent-provocateurs are plotting attacks against Americans – putting an outgoing Trump in a bind with a fake casus belli (act justifying war),” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a tweet on Saturday.

“Be careful of a trap, @realDonaldTrump. Any fireworks will backfire badly,” Zarif wrote.

With less than a month left in the White House, Trump is under pressure from key Middle East allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia, to act against Iran, Danny Postel, assistant director of the Center for International and Area Studies at Northwestern University, told Al Jazeera.

“Trump is a very wounded and very cornered animal in an end-game scenario. He’s got a few weeks left, and we know that he is capable of extremely erratic behavior,” Postel, an expert on Iran and US foreign policy, said.

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