Supporter of the Iran-backed Hashed Al Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation) paramilitary forces chant slogans during a demonstration outside the entrance to the Iraqi capital Baghdad’s highly-fortified Green Zone on Saturday, demanding the departure of remaining US forces from Iraq (AFP photo)
BAGHDAD — Several hundred protesters gathered in the Iraqi capital on Saturday afternoon to demand US troops leave the country in accordance with a parliament vote earlier this year.
“We will choose resistance if parliament’s vote is not ratified!” read one of the banners at the demonstration, which took place near an entrance to the high-security Green Zone, where the US embassy and other foreign missions are located.
Others carried signs bearing the logo of Hashed Al Shaabi, a state-sponsored network of armed groups including many supported by Iraq’s powerful neighbour Iran.
Following a US strike on Baghdad in January that killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and the Hashed’s deputy head, outraged Iraqi parliamentarians voted to oust all foreign forces deployed in the country.
The US has sent thousands of troops to Iraq since 2014 to lead an international coalition helping Baghdad fight the Daesh group.
Washington has drawn down those forces in recent months to around 3,000, and other coalition countries have also shrunk their footprint.
Starting in October 2019, rockets regularly targeted those troops as well as diplomats at the US embassy.
Over the summer, there was a marked increase in attacks against coalition logistics convoys using roadside bombs.
Enraged by the ongoing attacks, the US in late September threatened to close its Baghdad embassy and carry out bombing raids against hard-line elements of the Hashed.
Pro-Iran factions announced a temporary truce in October that put an end to the attacks, with no rockets targeting the embassy or foreign troops since.
Iraq has long been caught in the struggle for influence between its two main allies, the US and Iran, with the tug-of-war intensifying under US President Donald Trump.
Baghdad has been closely monitoring the results of the US presidential elections, seeing a change in the White House as a sign that tensions between Washington and Tehran could decrease.