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Fear in Iraq, with the start of a demonstration by supporters of Sadr against US presence

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — A demonstration expected to be “millionaire”, as called for by Shiite cleric Moqtada, to call for the expulsion of American forces from Iraq, was launched in Baghdad on Friday morning, while the demanding protesters street on the other side stood ready for any emergency.

Since October 1, Iraq has been witnessing a demanding protest movement, which has witnessed a decline in recent times after the United States assassinated an Air Force pilot in early January this year, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, Qassem Soleimani, and the deputy head of the Popular Mobilization Committee, Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, near Baghdad, which sparked outrage among large groups of Iraqis.

Ten days ago, Sadr said in a tweet via his Twitter account that “the sky, its land and its sovereignty are being violated by the invading forces.”

In his tweet, he called for an Iraqi revolution, neither eastern nor western (…), for a united, peaceful, millionaire demonstration condemning the American presence and its violations.

The Sadr call, which came after a vote in the Iraqi parliament on authorizing the government to end the presence of foreign forces in the country, won wide support from Shiite factions close to Iran, which are accused of being behind some violence against the demonstrators who gather in the central liberation square, which raises fears of A clash between the two parties.

It is worth noting, however, that Sadr was giving his supporters the freedom to participate in anti-corruption demonstrations, and he also asked his supporters to protect the demonstrators from armed groups accused of carrying out assassinations and kidnappings against activists.

But one activist told AFP on Thursday night that “Sadr does not represent us.”

The demanding demonstrators sought to regain the momentum and increase pressure on the authorities, and since the beginning of the week they started cutting roads in the capital and southern cities.

However, they expressed great concern about Sadr’s call, fearing that it would be close to Tahrir Square and lead to a confrontation.

Violence in demonstrations across the country resulted in the deaths of about 470 people, the majority of whom were protesters, and injured more than 25,000, according to a toll compiled by Agence France-Presse based on paramedics, security sources and the Iraqi Human Rights Commission.

Against Washington and Tehran? –

A spokesman for al-Sadr summarized the Friday demonstration with two demands, namely the exit of foreign forces and the beating of the corrupt.

“There are parties representing the October rebels who believe that only Iran is responsible for the devastation in Iraq, and other parties represented by the crowd or its supporters say America is the cause of the ruin,” Salah Al-Ubaidi said in an interview on Wednesday evening with the official Iraqi channel.

He added, “We believe that both are behind the ruin, and the master is trying to reconcile the two parties.”

Sadr did not initially clarify the location of the demonstration, which many believed would be in Tahrir Square, where the main sit-in had been in place for three months.

The center of Baghdad, on Friday, witnessed the closure of several main roads and the heavy deployment of security forces.

But al-Ubaidi explained that the demonstration would be in a different place, which is the Jadiriya area near the presidential compound and the heavily fortified Green Zone.

The path of the demonstration is still unknown.

The location of the gathering, according to a spokesman for al-Sadr, will be the intersection of the University of Baghdad, but without a destination for the expected “million” numbers.

The street spoke about several scenarios. The demonstrators are likely to be dragged to the US embassy, ​​the repetition of the same series that occurred last month that sparked tension between the United States and Iran, and made Iraq an arena for settling scores.

On the other hand, hard-line Shiite factions such as the Al-Nujaba Movement and the Iraqi Hezbollah Brigades issued severe threats to the President of the Republic Barham Saleh, commenting on his meeting with US President Donald Trump at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Wednesday.

– local motives –

One of Saleh’s advisers, who belongs to the Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq movement, submitted his resignation from his post in protest of the meeting as well.

So some were also afraid that the demonstrations would go to the Presidential Palace of Peace.

But al-Sadr announced a night before his close associates expressed his support for the President of the Republic, describing him as a “protector of the constitution.”

The Iraqi expert at the Carnegie Harith Hassan Center told AFP that Sadr was trying to preserve his “multiple identities” by supporting various protests.

And Hassan considered that “on the one hand, he seeks to position himself as the leader of a reformist movement, as a populist, and anti-establishment.”

“On the other hand, he also wants to preserve his image as a leader of the” American occupation “resistance,” in part to win the support of Iran.

Tehran recently stressed that all US forces should leave the Middle East, amid escalating tensions between them and Washington.

But al-Sadr may have local motives, according to Hassan.

“This protest will show that Sadr is still able to mobilize large groups of people on the streets, but it is also possible that he wants other groups to respond by giving him more room to choose the prime minister,” the political expert said.

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