That was almost two years ago, January 3, 2020. On the orders of US President Donald Trump, an armed drone sprayed the vehicle in which Iranian General Ghassem Soleimani, architect of Iranian strategy in the Middle East, and his Iraqi lieutenant, Abu Mahdi Al-Mohandes, number two of the Popular Mobilization units (Hachd Al-Chaabi), a coalition of Iraqi militias dominated by pro-Iranian factions.
On the second anniversary of their deaths, thousands of Hashd Al-Chaabi supporters demonstrated in Iraq on Saturday 1is January, calling for the withdrawal of American troops from the country. In central Baghdad, they broke into a square closed to traffic, waving large white flags bearing the Hashd badge and Iraqi flags.
“No to America! “, chanted the demonstrators, some of whom held up portraits of Soleimani and Al-Mohandes. “US Terrorism Must End”, could we read on a sign. Addressing the crowd, Falah Al-Fayyad, a senior Hashd official, praised the memory of the two « martyrs », seeing in their assassination “A crime against the sovereignty of Iraq”. He called again to “Total withdrawal of foreign and American forces” from Iraq.
Iraq caught between Iran and the United States
In 2020, the attack, perpetrated at night on a road at Baghdad international airport, raised fears of a war between Tehran and Washington, two enemies and two powers acting in Iraq. A few days after the assassination of General Soleimani, Iran retaliated by firing missiles at Iraqi bases housing American soldiers.
Tensions between Iran and the United States continually grapple with Iraq. In recent years, dozens of rocket attacks or drone bomb attacks have targeted US troops and US interests in Iraq. Never claimed, these attacks are systematically blamed by the United States on the pro-Iranian Iraqi factions.
The latter constantly demand the withdrawal of American troops stationed in the country as part of an international anti-jihadist coalition. On December 9, Iraq announced the “End of the combat mission” of the coalition, which to this day retains its troops on Iraqi soil to continue a training and advisory role.
In fact, some 2,500 American soldiers and a thousand soldiers from member countries of the coalition are now stationed in three bases held by Iraqi forces. These foreign troops had already served as advisers and trainers for more than a year, after helping Iraqi forces defeat the jihadist group Islamic State.
Main commemorations Monday in Iran
“If we want to avenge the blood of martyrs, it will be through the expulsion of all foreign forces to achieve full national sovereignty”, Hadi Al-Améri, who heads a Hashd faction, said on Saturday in his address to the demonstrators.
As part of the commemorations, a candlelight vigil is scheduled for Sunday evening at Baghdad airport, where the vehicle that transported General Soleimani and Mr. Al-Mouhandis now sits.
In Tehran, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei received the family of the slain Iranian general on Saturday, in the presence of the commander of the Revolutionary Guards and the head of the Al-Quds Force, an elite unit in charge of foreign operations, formerly led by Ghassem Soleimani. In Iran, the main commemorations will be held on Monday.
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Iraq: thousands of demonstrators for the second anniversary of the death of General Soleimani