On Sunday, January 3, thousands of Iraqis took to the streets of Baghdad on the anniversary of the assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. They were demanding the withdrawal of all foreign troops from the country
Deputy head of Iraq’s Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Force) militia Mahdi al-Muhandis and head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Corps General Qasem Soleimani were assassinated along with eight others in a drone attack near the Baghdad airport by the US on January 3, 2020.
1:00 am at Baghdad Int Airport
Despite #COVID19, Iraqis felt they had to commemorate the martyrdom of General Qasem Soleimani, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis & their companions in the war on ISIS
They protested against the US occupation & reaffirmed the strong bonds between Iraq & Iran pic.twitter.com/JXI8ivn2SA
— Seyed Mohammad Marandi (@s_m_marandi) January 3, 2021
Both Soleimani and Muhandis had provided leadership in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq.
The assassination of Soleimani and Muhandis had put the region on the brink of war. Iran vowed to retaliate and on January 8, fired missiles at a military base in Iraq where US troops were stationed. In the following days, the Iraqi parliament passed a resolution demanding withdrawal of all foreign troops from the country.
The US had stationed over 5,000 troops in Iraq before the assassination of Soleimani. It has gradually withdrawn some of its troops in the last few months and plans to withdraw 500 additional troops before the end of Trump’s term on January 20. This will reduce the number of American troops in Iraq to 2,500.
The protesters on Sunday marched on the highway leading to the airport and later gathered at Baghdad’s Tahrir Squire. They carried banners demanding punishment for all those who were responsible for the assassination and the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. Similar protests were also organized in Iran.
The anniversary was observed amid escalating tension between the US and Iran. The US deployment of the warship USS Nimitz, a nuclear submarine and B-52 bombers in the Persian Gulf region in recent days has led to worries of war. A few days ago, Donald Trump had threatened to start a war if any American was killed in missile attacks on its embassy in Iraq. The US blamed Iran for attacks on its embassy. Iran has denied any involvement in such attacks. Militias in Iraq have mainly claimed responsibility for these attacks.