Recent developments in the ongoing U.S.-Iran situation have seen protesters in Iraq flood the streets by the masses, with hundreds of thousands marching through the streets of Baghdad protesting the U.S. troop presence in Iraq. The protests come after the U.S. launched an attack on January 3rd that killed Iranian military general Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. Separate anti-government protests have also been going on in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, calling for the removal of the current governing class, who protesters see as corrupt and not worthy of governing.
CNN referenced that the Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr who, after the January 3rd killings, called for a ‘Million Man March’, prompting the people to take to the streets. At the protest, Sadr publicly called for U.S. troops to leave the country to avoid ‘another war’. Iraqi demonstrators entered the Green Zone – an area in central Baghdad that houses many government buildings and foreign embassies – and surrounded the U.S. embassy for twenty-four hours.
The anti-government protesters, on the other hand, stated that their protests are completely unrelated. Thus, the streets of Baghdad have been busy with protesters from both situations. Government offices and schools have been shut down because of how long the protests have been going on. Al Jazeera reports that about 460 people have been killed in protest-related violence over the past three months, along with 25,000 who have been wounded.
Recently, however, strides have been made to secure some forms of peace within the region and to show that there is an effort to reconcile. Global Research stated that Iraqi President Barham Salih met with President Trump in Davos, Switzerland at the World Economic Forum, where they reportedly had a good conversation and discussed the need for things to calm down. Salih met with Trump under heavy scrutiny from fellow Iraqis – Abu Ali al-Askari, a security official with the Iranian-backed Hezbollah group, said if Salih met with Trump, he would be “violating the will of the people and ignoring the pure blood spilled.”
Hezbollah spokesman Mohammad Mohie said the meeting was, “deeply humiliating and inconsiderate of the loss of Iraqi blood.” He added, “Trump has committed unforgivable crimes against the Iraqi people. How could Salih join hands with someone who has no respect for Iraq’s sovereignty and the blood of its martyrs?” Another Hezbollah group offered their take on the situation, this time more critical of the Iraqi President, “Most Iraqis consider this meeting treacherous. We no longer accept (Salih) as our representative and won’t rest until he’s held accountable for going against the will of the Iraqi parliament.”
The presence of U.S. troops in Iraq brings up the issue of sovereignty within Iraq. Many Iraqis want American forces out of Baghdad, but Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are sticking to their plan and are seemingly unbothered by the Iraqi people’s demands. Trump seemed to actually respond to their demands by threatening sanctions on Iraq. The ongoing situation in Iran has caused waves of protests in Iraq. Protesters are livid at the government they see as corrupt and not doing anything. It remains to be seen what actions the government will take to advance peaceful dialogue.