Iraqis to Hold Million-Man March on Friday to Protest US Military Presence
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Iraqis to Hold Million-Man March on Friday to Protest US Military Presence

Last week, influential Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr demanded that Iraqis stage a “million-man march” in order “to condemn the American presence and its violations" in the Arab country.  “The skies, land, and sovereignty of Iraq are being violated every day by occupying forces,” tweeted the cleric, who leads the largest parliamentary bloc, Saeroon  (Alliance Towards Reform). Many resistance groups and political movements have supported the demonstration, which is scheduled to be held in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, on Friday morning. The call for the march came days after the Iraqi parliament voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution calling for the expulsion of all US-led forces. It followed Washington's assassination of senior Iranian commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the second-in-command of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMUF, among others, near the Baghdad airport, on US President Donald Trump's direct order. Speaking on Thursday, Sadr's spokesman Salah al-Ubaidi said the rally would be held at the intersection of Baghdad University in Jadriyah neighborhood, according to Iraqi media. He also did not rule out Sadr's participation in the event. Iraqi lawmaker Ahmed al-Asadi, of the Fatah (Conquest) alliance, said on Wednesday that Friday's rally is aimed at expelling American forces from the country. In a post on his Twitter account, Asadi said the event is actually a referendum on defending national sovereignty and expelling all foreign forces from Iraqi soil, the Kurdish Rudaw media network reported. Mohamed Mohie, spokesman for Kata'ib Hezbollah which is part of Iraq's PMF or Hashd al-Sha’abi, underlined the importance of the upcoming mass march, saying it would reinforce the parliament's resolution and represent the will of the Iraqis from different walks of life. Nasser al-Shammari, deputy secretary-general of the al-Naujaba Brigades, told the Doha-based television network Al Jazeera that "an unprecedented number of people" are expected to turn out for Friday's rally. "It will reignite the flame of resistance which won't die until we expel every single one of them [US troops] from Iraq. This is the will of the Iraqi people and the parliament," he said. Salih angers nation On Wednesday, Salih met with Trump on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, sparking condemnations from different Iraqi factions.  Kata'ib Hezbollah spokesman told Al Jazeera that the group considered the Salih-Trump meeting "deeply humiliating and inconsiderate of the loss of Iraqi blood." "Trump has committed unforgivable crimes against the Iraqi people. How could Salih join hands with someone who has no respect for Iraq's sovereignty and the blood of its martyrs?" Mohie asked. "He (Salih) has positioned himself against the Iraqi people. We call on him to step down and not return to Baghdad. He is no longer welcome among us." Similarly, Shammari said the president should resign and be "banished" from Baghdad, noting, "The hands of this man [Trump] are covered in Iraqi blood." "Most Iraqi people consider this [meeting] treacherous. We no longer accept him [Salih] as our representative and won't rest until he's held accountable for going against the will of the Iraqi parliament and disregarding our martyrs' blood," he said. Moreover, the leader of Iraq's Asaib Ahl al-Haq group issued a video statement condemning the Salih-Trump meeting and calling on Iraqis to join Friday's march. Qais al-Khazali further warned that the US will have to face the consequences if it "continues to disregard Iraq's political and public will to expel US troops." Additionally, Iraqi lawmaker Naim al-Aboudi, of the Fatah (Conquest) alliance took to Twitter to say, "A statesman should not violate his country's constitution and sovereignty, or be a reason to infuriate millions of his people."

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