Alwaght- Muqtada al-Sadr, influential Iraqi Shiite cleric, called for staging a “million-man march” against the continued US military presence in the country, days after Iraq’s parliament voted to expel the American troops following US regime's assassination of deputy head of Popular Mobilization Forces Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Iranian top commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad.
The march was needed “to condemn the American presence and its violations,” Sadr, who leads the largest parliamentary bloc, Sairoon, said in a tweet on Tuesday.
“The skies, land, and sovereignty of Iraq are being violated every day by occupying forces,” he added. The cleric, however, cautioned that such a show of popular disapproval should be a “peaceful, unified demonstration,” without giving any location or date for the rally.
On January 5, the parliament voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution calling for the expulsion of all US-led forces, two days after the US military assassinated General Qassem Soleimani and al-Muhandis along with eight others, near the Baghdad international airport.
The parliament resolution also urged the Baghdad government to drop a request for assistance from a US-led coalition of foreign troops purportedly operating against ISIS remnants in Iraq.
The Iraqis censured the targeted killings — which were ordered by US President Donald Trump — as a blatant violation of the country’s sovereignty as well as the security agreement between Baghdad and Washington.
In a letter to the parliament following the vote, Sadr called for an immediate cancellation of the security agreement with the US, closure of the US embassy, expulsion of US troops in “a humiliating manner,” and the criminalization of communication with the US administration.
Following the parliamentary vote, the office of Iraq’s caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi asked Washington to dispatch a delegation to Baghdad to initiate preparations for the withdrawal of the American troops, who number around 5,200.
In response, Trump has threatened to sanction Iraq “like they’ve never seen before ever” if Baghdad were to expel US troops.
On Sunday, The Wall Street Journal said the US administration has threatened it would shut off Iraq’s access to its main account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which is used to collect revenues from the Arab country's overseas oil sales, if Baghdad expelled the American forces.
General Soleimani, who had won reputation as the Middle East most revered anti-terror commander, cooperated closely with the PMU and other regional counter-terrorism forces against the deadliest of the terrorist outfits to ever take on the region, including ISIS.
He was in Baghdad for an official meeting when he was assassinated.