BAGHDAD (Dispatches) – Senior Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called on Tuesday for a million Iraqis to march against the U.S. "presence and violations” in Iraq after Washington’s assassination of top Iranian and Iraqi commanders in Baghdad.
Iraq’s parliament has called for U.S. and other foreign troops to leave amid growing a backlash against Washington’s airstrike, which martyred Iran’s General Qassem Soleimani and Iraq’s Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.
Iran launched a missile attack on U.S. targets in Iraq in retaliation for the assassination.
"Go on soldiers of God, soldiers of the nation, onto a million man march condemning the American presence and its violations,” Sadr tweeted.
"Iraqi space, its land and sovereignty are infringed upon by occupying forces.”
Sadr has millions of followers and has been able to summon tens of thousands of people onto the streets of Baghdad for demonstrations in previous years.
Iraqi officials say the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to shut off Iraq’s access to a key central banking account if Baghdad expels American troops from the Arab country.
Washington would shut down Baghdad’s access to its main account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, used to collect revenues from Iraq’s overseas oil sales, The Wall Street Journal quoted the officials as saying.
According to the most recent financial statement from the Central Bank of Iraq, the bank held almost $3 billion in overnight deposits at the close of 2018.
The report came a day after Trump implicitly threatened to seize
$35 billion of Iraqi money held in U.S. banks if the country insists on having American forces withdrawn from Iraq.
Trump said he had told Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi that Iraq "should pay back the United States for its investments in the country over the past several years or the American military will stay there,” Fox News reported.
"I said, ‘If we leave, you got to pay us,’” Trump told the news network in the White House. "If we leave ... you have to pay us for the money we put in.”
Asked how he planned to collect money from Iraq, Trump said: "Well, we have a lot of their money right now. We have a lot of their money. We have $35 billion of their money right now sitting in an account.
"And I think they’ll agree to pay. I think they’ll agree to pay. Otherwise, we’ll stay there,” he added.