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Baghdad

Mass protest against US presence rocks Baghdad

The Iraqi capital city of Baghdad was rocked by mass protests on Friday, as hundreds of thousands of demonstrators marched against the presence of American troops in the country.

Published: January 25, 2020, 11:13 am

    The protesters were massed at al-Hurriyah Square near the main university, while some anti-Iraqi government protesters were gathered at Tahrir Square. The two groups of demonstrators did not clash.

    The anti-US protest demanding the pullout of all American troops, was organised by Shia militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr. Protesters were carrying signs in English aimed at American forces and the Western media, and they were joined by large numbers of al-Sadr followers from the poverty-stricken areas of Baghdad.

    The Trump Administration has been adamant that US forces will not leave Iraq, citing the recent resurgence of ISIS as the reason.

    Earlier this year, days after the Soleimani assassination at Baghdad Airport, the Iraq parliament unanimously passed a non-binding referendum for all foreign troops to leave the country.

    President Trump has threatened to impose harsh sanctions on Iraq if the American forces are expelled. Iraq’s oil revenues are deposited in dollars in accounts at the US Federal Reserve and are shipped to Iraq as the government requires the funds.

    Muqtada al-Sadr has demanded that all US bases in Iraq be closed, all security agreements with the US and with US security companies be declared void and that a schedule for the exit of all US forces be announced.

    Al-Sadr has promised to temporarily halt the resistance against the US occupation if the Americans commit to leaving orderly.

    Calls for civilians, families, militants and armed companions of the commander of the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) Abu Mahdi al-Muhandes to march in the streets to send a message to US-led foreign forces to leave, were answered by hundreds of thousands of supporters.

    All military bases in Iraq are occupied by two distinct forces: one part is under the Iraqi forces’ control and the other under US forces’ control, analyst Elijah Magnier pointed out.

    “The Iraqi Prime Minister will have no choice but to order the withdrawal of all Iraqi forces from bases where US forces are established, once the US forces are formally designated an occupation force and refuse to withdraw. This will make it possible for the Iraqi resistance to attack the bases without risking Iraqi casualties,” he noted on his blog.

    Meanwhile, the Associated Press tweeted that “hundreds” gathered in central Baghdad to demand that American troops leave the country.

    As AP sent the misleading tweet, the commander of the Iraqi Federal Police Forces Jaffar al-Batat had already announced that the number of demonstrators exceeded one million. The column of marchers was reportedly eight kilometres long.

    On 8 January 2020, in a military operation code named Operation Martyr Soleimani, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) launched numerous ballistic missiles at the Ayn al-Asad airbase in Al Anbar Governorate, Western Iraq, as well as another airbase in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan, in response to the killing of Soleimani by a United States drone strike.

    While the US administration initially said that none of its service members were injured or killed in the attack, the US Department of Defense ultimately said that 34 service members were diagnosed and treated for “traumatic brain injuries from the attack”.

    President Trump on Wednesday dismissed the reports of injuries after Iranian airstrikes on Al Asad Air Base in Iraq as “not very serious,” saying they were “headaches”.

    Iran has delivered precision missiles to the Iraqis, and the number of US casualties may increase just before Trump’s forthcoming re-election campaign. Trump may have to face US casualties in Iraq and Syria.

    According to Magnier, no US oil company will be able to stay in Iraq either as US personnel risk becoming “soft targets”.

    Because the Chinese have already expressed their readiness to compensate foreign companies willing to leave Iraq, Iraq will not find it difficult to allow China to replace the US.

    A critical global shift has since occurred with China taking over from the US as the world’s most dominant trading partner. In 2018, trade accounted for 59 percent of global GDP, up nearly 1,5 times since 1980.

    Over this time frame, international trade has transformed significantly – not just in terms of volume and composition, but also in terms of the countries that the rest of the world leans on for their most important trade relationships.

    The Lowy Institute obtained data from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) database on bilateral trade flows, to determine whether the US or China is a bigger trading partner for each country from 1980 to 2018.

    The results are stark: before 2000, the US was at the helm of global trade, as over 80 percent of countries traded with the US more than they did with China. By 2018, that number had dropped sharply to just 30 percent, as China swiftly took top position in 128 of 190 countries.

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