Protesters in Karbala Brandish Pictures of Gen. Soleimani, Muhandis
KARBALA, Iraq (Dispatches) -- Iraqis have taken part in a march against the United States in the holy city of Karbala, carrying pictures of Iran’s anti-terror commander General Qassem Soleimani, and deputy head of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units forces Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who were assassinated in a U.S. drone attack in January.
Supporters of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), better known by their Arabic name as Hashd al-Sha’abi, took to the streets to condemn the acts of terrorism by the U.S. in their country, chanting slogans such as "The U.S. is the biggest satan.”
They carried pictures of "the leaders of victory” as well as other resistance fighters, calling for the expulsion of all American forces from the Arab country.
The protesters continued their march until they reached the holy shrines of Imam Hussein (AS), the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him), and his half-brother Hazrat Abbas (AS).
Anti-American sentiments have been running high in Iraq since the U.S. assassinated Gen. Soleimani and al-Muhandis in Baghdad on January 3.
Just two days later, Iraqi lawmakers unanimously passed a bill mandating the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Iraq.
Iraqi resistance groups have pledged to take up arms against U.S. forces if Washington fails to comply with the parliamentary order.
Last month, the Wall Street Journal cited American officials as saying that the Pentagon was planning to decrease the number of American troops in Iraq by about one-third over the next two to three months.
Iraq’s anti-terror groups responded to the report with anger, calling for an immediate withdrawal in line with the Iraqi parliament’s decision.
Armed Iraqi factions threatened to target U.S. interests in the country after President Donald Trump declined to give a timetable for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq during an Oval Office meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi.
A statement issued by armed groups calling themselves the "Resistance Factions” also criticized the agenda of al-Kadhimi’s meetings which did not include the immediate implementation of the decision to remove U.S. troops from the country.
The statement said, "Al-Kadhimi must make the implementation of the decision of the Iraqi people his top priority, taking into consideration that millions of Iraqis have taken to the street to say that U.S. occupation … must end, prompting the government and parliament to implement the people’s decision and remove the occupation forces.”
More than 17 years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Trump said the United States would eventually withdraw all American troops from the conflict-ridden nation, though he did not provide a timetable.
"At some point, we obviously will be gone,” Trump said in his meeting with al-Kadhimi. "We look forward to the day when we don’t have to be there,” he added before the two men met privately.
There are currently about 5,000 troops
in Iraq. Their assignments include alleged counter-terrorism operations and training Iraqi security forces. Throughout their battle with foreign-backed terrorists, several Iraqi officials and military commanders came forth to reveal that U.S. troops were in fact assisting the terrorists. The U.S. military was caught on cameras airdropping arms and munitions in areas controlled by Daesh terrorists. Iraqi fighters and their commanders in battlefields said they repeatedly saw Iraqi troops airlifting Daesh commanders from their besieged positions to safety. At other occasions, they saw the positions of Iraqi fighters come under attack by American forces. After the Iraqi government’s objection to the assassination in January, Trump threatened Iraq with sanctions if the country’s leaders followed through on threats to expel U.S. forces over the drone strike. On Sunday, representatives of various Iraqi political factions stressed that the parliament’s resolution on the withdrawal of American troops was irreversible and that the government should implement it. "The government’s view is that the American forces stay, especially the remarks by the Prime Minister’s adviser about the American presence in Iraq confirm this; moreover some factions see the staying of the Americans in Iraq as essential,” MP Riyadh al-Masoudi of the Saeroon bloc, an alliance of Sadrists, said. "The parliament’s resolution on the expulsion of American troops is binding on the government. Especially since the United States has committed a crime in Iraq, its exit is inevitable,” MP Muhammad al-Baldawi said. Their remarks came after Hisham Daoud, an advisor to PM al-Kadhimi, told reporters Tuesday that the Iraqi parliament’s bill on the withdrawal of the American forces was not legally binding.