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Iraqis demand end to US terrorism ahead of General Soleimani's assassination anniversary

Iraqi people take part in a demonstration and a symbolic funeral for top Iranian commander General Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in Baghdad, on January 1, 2022, commemorating the second anniversary of their assassination by the United States. (Photo by AFP)

As thousands of people rally in Baghdad ahead of the anniversary of the US assassination of Iranian and Iraqi warriors, Iraqi people and resistance groups say they stand firm on demanding the complete withdrawal of all American-led forces from their country.

During a rally on Saturday, Qais Khazali, the secretary general of Iraqi resistance movement Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, said Americans are trying to justify their military presence on Iraqi soil, but the resistance will force them to leave “empty-handed and in disgrace.”

Khazali underlined that the Americans should have realized that the Iraqi people do not accept the occupation of their country.

“We cannot accept the occupation, and you should have understood the lessons that the heroes of the resistance taught to you, and the messages sent to you by the heroes of the resistance with their missiles and drones,” Khazali said in remarks directed at the US, Iraq’s Arabic-language al-Maalomah news agency reported.

The rally came two days before the second anniversary of the US assassination of Iran’s top anti-terror general Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike directly ordered by former US president Donald Trump. Soleimani’s companions, including Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), were also martyred in the attack.

“Just as you loved the Iraqis, the honorable Iraqis love you too,” Khazali said, addressing General Soleimani. “We are grateful to the Islamic Iran and the city of Kerman and Haj Qassem.”

He said Soleimani and al-Muhandis were the founders of the Iraqi resistance, and Iraq managed to defeat the Daesh terrorist group thanks to their efforts.

‘US terrorism has to end’

During the Baghdad rally, thousands of people chanted anti-American slogans, calling for the expulsion of remaining American forces from Iraq, after the US combat mission to Iraq came to an end.

According to Iraqi media, many people came to Baghdad from different areas across the country to attend the demonstration.

“We will not let you stay in the land of the martyrs after today,” some of the placards read. “US terrorism has to end,” some other signs read.

In December, Baghdad announced the end of the US-led forces’ “combat mission” in Iraq, but about 2,500 American soldiers and 1,000 coalition troops will remain deployed in Iraq on the pretext of offering training, advice, and assistance to Iraqi forces.

Iraqi resistance groups have maintained that the US is merely relabeling its military forces to Iraq. They have ramped up their calls for the expulsion of all American forces from the Arab country regardless of their labels.

Pressure to push American forces out began to build up soon after the US assassination of General Soleimani, with the Iraqi parliament passing a bill that required the government to expel all US-led foreign forces only two days after the assassination.

Demanding withdrawal ‘not a sentimental position’

Speaking at the rally, Falih al-Fayyadh, the head of the PMU, repeated the call on the government to honor the bill and free Iraq from the foreign forces, saying any form of foreign military presence on the Iraqi land will not be beneficial for the Iraqi people.

Demanding the withdrawal of foreign forces “is not a sentimental position, but rather, it aims to protect Iraq and its sovereignty,” al-Fayyadh said, according to Iraqi News Agency (INA).

He stressed that the Iraqi people are entitled to sovereignty and dignity, as well as the ability to build the future of the country.

“Therefore, all the Iraqi people and their political forces must do their duty to preserve the trust, complete the construction project, and get out of any political obstruction by relying on God and the capabilities of our people,” he added.

Al-Fayyadh also hailed a 2014 fatwa (religious ruling) by prominent Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani that called for a unified effort against Daesh.

Ayatollah al-Sistani’s stances protected Iraq from dangers and contributed to the unity of Iraq and the expulsion of terrorists, he asserted.

‘Path of commanders not to end with martyrdom’

The secretary general of the Badr Organization also addressed the demonstration, saying Ayatollah al-Sistani’s fatwa led to the liberation of Iraq.

“The Popular Mobilization Units will remain strong, no matter how many plots are hatched against it,” Hadi al-Amiri said.

He paid homage to the courageous acts of Soleimani, al-Muhandis, and their companions, saying their pure blood was a price that was paid for the expulsion of occupation forces from Iraq.

“Those who think that [with martyromd], Qassem Soleimani and al-Muhandis will end are delusional,” al-Amiri, who is also the leader of the Fatah Alliance (Conquest Alliance) political coalition, stated.

He said the two commanders led the way to liberate Iraq from terrorism and they will live on in the conscience of the Iraqi nation.

“We are determined to continue the path, and we will remain loyal to Iraq,” he added.

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