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Over 200,000 Iraqis protested against the U.S. military presence in their country on Friday, demanding American forces leave as requested by the Arab nation’s Parliament in early January after President Donald Trump ordered the assassination of Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani during the general’s visit to Iraq on January 3.

“We don’t need any foreign troops to be in Iraq, we need Iraq for Iraqis,” Hoda Hashimi, an employee in the Ministry of Trade in Baghdad, told the New York Times.

Hashimi added that while U.S. forces are not welcome in the country, the American people in Iraq—most of them there on business—were.

“We don’t want Americans to leave, we want the troops to leave,” said Hashimi. “We want America to support our country but with contracts, not troops.”

The demonstrations were a reaction to the January 10 announcement from the U.S. that despite a January 5 vote from the Iraqi Parliament expelling American forces, U.S. military personnel would stay.

According to the Times:

The protest was concentrated in Baghdad, and people were brought in from other cities to participate rather than holding smaller simultaneous demonstrations across the country.

Although the event was carefully organized and scripted by Moqtada al-Sadr, a populist anti-American Shiite cleric, and given heft by Iraqi armed groups close to Iran, it also reflected a genuine desire shared by Iraqis to have a government and economy that serves the Iraqi people and not outside interests, many participants said.

Video from the pro-government march showed a sea of people waving flags and chanting anti-U.S. slogans.

Demonstrators rejected foreign influence in their country’s affairs. 

“We don’t want any country to decide the fate of Iraq,” protester Thurgham al-Tamimi told CNN. “We want to see Iraq with full sovereignty.”

Citations

[1] We're Staying, US Tells Iraq After Being Asked to Leave | Common Dreams News ➤ https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/01/10/were-staying-us-tells-iraq-after-being-asked-leave[2] Iraqi Parliament Votes to Expel All American Troops and Submit UN Complaint Against US for Violation of Sovereignty | Common Dreams News ➤ https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/01/05/iraqi-parliament-votes-expel-all-american-troops-and-submit-un-complaint-against-us[3]https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/24/world/middleeast/protests-iraq-baghdad.html[4]https://t.co/J5FXAepcNQ[5]https://twitter.com/MidEastWitness/status/1220638455526502400?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw[6] Iraq: Hundreds of thousands in Baghdad protest US troop presence - CNN ➤ https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/24/middleeast/iraq-protests-us-troops-intl/index.html