By ADAM RITSCHER
Massive protests are taking place in Iraq this week demanding that the United States withdraw all of its military forces from the country. The protests are in large part a response to U.S. airstrikes and the targeted assassination of Iranian and Iraqi leaders earlier in the month. In the wake of these events, the Iraqi parliament voted on Jan. 5 to expel U.S. occupation forces from the country. Washington, however, is arrogantly insisting that it has no plans to withdraw the more than 5200 U.S. soldiers still stationed in the country.
There have been a series of mass protests the last couple of days, many of them numbering in the several hundreds of thousands. An estimated 200,000 marched through Baghdad on Jan. 24, following the call by Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr for a “Million Man March.” Protesters held signs reading, “No, no to America” and “No, no, to occupation,” along with caricatures of President Trump.
All told, the combined number of protesters is estimated by some to be in the millions (the Iraq Center for Strategic Studies estimated that 2.5 million took to the streets nationwide on Jan. 24).
Some of the most recent protests have been called by political and religious organizations allied with the regime in Iran. Others have been called in opposition to both the U.S. occupation and Iranian interference in the country. This reflects some of the deep political divides that have defined Iraqi politics of late. But all of the protesters are united in their rejection of the U.S. claim that it is a force for peace in the region, and insist that the occupation of Iraq end immediately.
Since October of this year, Iraq has seen several waves of protests. They began as protests primarily against government corruption, and were largely made up Sunni Arabs who felt marginalized by the Shiite dominated government. As the protests grew, however, they expanded beyond the initial Sunni Arab base into Shiite Arab areas in the south of the country. The protests also became more militant, with many marches resulting in the occupation of highways and government offices.
The government responded with violence, firing tear gas and live ammunition at a number of protests. This has resulted in the death of up to 470 protesters in the last three months.
While the Iraqi government’s call for U.S. troops to leave the country is overwhelmingly popular, it hasn’t resulted in renewed political support for the government, which is still seen as corrupt and incompetent, far more concerned with enriching itself than protecting the country and its people from foreign intervention.
This continued opposition to the government in Baghdad was powerfully demonstrated by massive protests earlier this week in southern cities like Basra and Nasariyah. Protesters demanded that the government resign by a set deadline, and when that didn’t happen they responded with a general strike, mass marches, the blocking of highways with burning tires, and welding the doors and gates of government offices shut.
With the even bigger protests that are currently unfolding in southern and central Iraq, the people of Iraq are powerfully forcing their way onto the stage. We in Socialist Resurgence support their call for the immediate and total withdrawal of all U.S. forces in the region. And we also support the right of the Iraqi people to determine their own government, free from foreign interference.
U.S. out of the Middle East! Self-Determination for the people of Iraq!