'Iraq for Iraqis': Hundreds of Thousands Flood Streets of Baghdad to Demand US Military Leave Country

Thousands of Iraqis gathering at Jadariya, a neighborhood in the Baghdad city center at a rally against the presence of U.S. troops in the country, in Baghdad, Iraq on January 24, 2020. (Photo: Murtadha Al-Sudani/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

'Iraq for Iraqis': Hundreds of Thousands Flood Streets of Baghdad to Demand US Military Leave Country

"We want to see Iraq with full sovereignty."

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 toldCNN. "We want to see Iraq with full sovereignty."

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