‘No, No America’: Iraq Protesters Demand U.S. Military Pullout

Thousands of Iraqis rallied at two central Baghdad intersections on Friday after a prominent cleric called for a “million strong” protest against the American military presence, following the U.S. killing of an Iranian general and an Iraqi militia chief.

The initial march appeared not to gather further steam, however, largely dissipating after several hours. Some protesters headed to join separate anti-government demonstrators at Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, and others boarded buses to go home.

The march called by Moqtada al-Sadr aimed to press for a pullout of U.S. troops. Many anti-government protesters feared it could overshadow their separate, months-long demonstrations that have challenged Iran-backed Shi’ite groups’ grip on power.

Iraq’s top Shi’ite Muslim cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, later called in his weekly sermon for political groups to form a new government as soon as possible to bring stability to the country and enact reforms to improve Iraqis’ lives.

Sadr, who commands a following of millions in vast Baghdad slums, opposes all foreign interference in Iraq but has recently aligned himself more closely with Iran, whose allies have dominated state institutions since a 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Sadr supported anti-government protests when they began in October, but did not publicly urge his followers to join them.

The demonstrations have since taken aim at all groups and figures that are part of the post-2003 system including Sadr, who although often considered an outsider is part of that system, commanding one of the two largest blocs in parliament.

Some lawmakers and protesters say the new, anti-U.S. element to public unrest distracts from the aim of toppling the corrupt political elite and could fuel more violence.

Throngs of marchers started gathering early on Friday at al-Hurriya Square in central Baghdad and near around the city’s main university, Reuters witnesses said. Marchers avoided Tahrir square, symbol of mass protests against Iraq’ ruling elites.

“We want them all out – America, Israel, and the corrupt politicians in government,” said Raed Abu Zahra, a health ministry worker from southern city of Samawa, who arrived by bus at night and stayed in Sadr City, a sprawling district of Baghdad controlled by the cleric’s followers.

“We support the protests in Tahrir as well, but understand why Sadr held this protest here so it doesn’t take attention from theirs,” he added.

Men and women marched waving the red, white and black national colors, and chanted slogans against the United States, which leads a military coalition against the Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.


Some were wearing symbolic white robes indicating they’re willing to die for their country while others sat looking out over the square from half finished buildings, holding signs reading “No, no, America, no, no, Israel, no, no, colonialists”.

Marchers were protected by Sadr’s Saraya al-Salam brigades and Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, an umbrella grouping of Iran-backed Shi’ite militias, witnesses said.

The march looked unlikely as initially feared to end up at the gates of the U.S. Embassy, the seat of U.S. power in Iraq and the scene of violent clashes last month when militia supporters tried to storm the compound.

Sistani, who condemned the killing of Iranian military mastermind General Qassem Soleimani in a U.S. drone strike on Jan. 3, repeated his opposition to foreign interference in Iraq.

“Iraq’s sovereignty must be respected … and citizens should have the right to peaceful protest,” he said.

Sistani, who comments on politics only in times of crisis and wields great influence over Iraq’s Shi’ite majority, urged reform and a new government as soon as possible.

Under the government of caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, who said he would quit in November, security forces and unidentified gunmen believed to be linked to powerful Iran-backed militias killed nearly 450 anti-establishment protesters.

Main roads in Baghdad were barricaded on Friday by security forces and the city’s Green Zone, which houses foreign missions, were blocked off with concrete barriers. Outside the U.S. embassy, a sign read “Warning. Do not cross this barrier, we will use pre-emptive measures against any attempt to cross”.

The killing of Soleimani has raised the specter of more civil strife in a country torn by years of sectarian conflict.

For the first time in nearly two years, parliament voted along sectarian lines to press the government to kick out U.S. forces. Shi’ite parties voted in favor, while Sunni Muslim and Kurdish lawmakers boycotted the session.

(Additional reporting by Nadine Awadalla; Writing by Aziz El Yaakoubi, Editing by William Maclean)


  1. James,

    To quote from the original Watchmen:
    “… and all the whores and politicians will look up and shout: ‘Save us!’. And I’ll look down and whisper: ‘No.”

    To paraphrase an AA/NA maxim, you cannot help someone who will not help themselves. After they exhaust themselves from their internecine bloodletting they MAY ask for help. It’s unlikely.

    I say, without reservation, they are primitive screwheads and we do not need the boomstick. (Ash) They can use their boomsticks on themselves.

    Save the Christians, Yezidis, and Kurds. F the rest who want to wallow in their hateful and violent 7th-century religion.

    They have to want to reform themselves and that’s entirely on them.

  2. Either these people are really stupid or they are Iranians……of course they are not exclusive.

  3. This administration had no strategy for anything in the M.E. in 2016 and it has none now.

    We have more military there now than when King Donald The Loser first sat on his golden throne.

    What if someone grabs some of our soldiers before the election and demands that we leave? What is he going to do then? Impose more sanctions on somebody?

  4. I think we should bow to their wishes and depart that wretched, unappreciative country. They quickly forgot that they would have remained under a heavy-handed dictatorship or, been overrun by ISIS and we pulled them out from under both freedom-crushing entities. Now, apparently they want to join Iran at the hip. I wonder what that will get them. without U.S. troops there to hold back those that want to do them harm they are wide open to a takeover by a willing Iran or a reconstituted ISIS. But if that is what they want, let ’em have it. They need us more than we need them. I think our country has gone far, far beyond our original intent, and serve no American interests by remaining there because there are none.

    1. True – At one time that part of the world was important to us because of the oil but now we produce our own and now it is catch you later, alligator.

  5. Give them exactly what they want AND refuse to come back once the place goes in the sh*tter again. It will.

    We don’t need their oil or Iran’s or Saudi Arabia’s. The EU, China, etc. do. Let those powers squander blood and money to secure the region and its oil.

    We have gained NOTHING for the lives and treasure expended there. Muslim extremists STILL hate us. That’s not going to change.

    1. Agreed; but, you know the Iraqis will be hollering/begging for help in less than a year.

  6. Pull out let them run their own country. We don’t want other countries to tell us how to live. If anyone should be in there , it should be the u.n. So where are they? Why is it always the U.S. we should not be the police of the world. We should stick with our true allies and just support them when they ASK. When it comes to aid, how about giving food instead of $$$$$ all the time. $$$$$ ends up in the wrong hands to many times

  7. Protest paid for by radical Islamist terrorists. Every one of these protesters has been paid to be there.

  8. Just pull out of the whole middle east and let these idiots kill each other off. our military adventures are sucking our country dry.

Comments are closed.