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Supporters of Iraq’s Shia militias hold protest in London against US interference

September 28, 2020 at 4:17 pm

A motorcade rally took place yesterday in London in solidarity with Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Forces [@AliiOvain/Twitter]

A motorcade rally took place yesterday in London in solidarity with Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), also known as the Hashd Al-Shaabi, in recognition in their role in combatting Daesh.

The event started in Cricklewood, where there is a large Iraqi community, and headed towards the Iraq Embassy before ending at the US Embassy, where a protest was held against the continued US military presence in the country.

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One flyer posted on Twitter said the turnout was in support of “The sacrifices made against the terrorism of ISIS”, in reference to Daesh, safeguarding the homes of women and children, and protecting the holy shrines from destruction. It was also in support of the senior Shia clerical establishment, in particular Ayatollah Sayyid Al-Sistani, whose 2014 fatwa led to the establishment of the PMF, which forms an integral part of the Iraqi armed forces. However in April some factions loyal to Al-Sistani left the PMF over differences with the core of the umbrella which has strong relations with neighbouring Iran.

The protests come amid reports that the US is considering evacuating its staff from the US Embassy in Baghdad unless the Iraqi government reins in rocket attacks which frequently target the so-called Green Zone where the embassy is located.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is said to have told Iraqi Prime Minister Barham Salih yesterday over the phone that “The decision to close the embassy in Baghdad is in President Trump’s hands and is ready. … If our forces withdraw and the embassy is closed in this way, we will liquidate all those who have been proven to have been involved in these attacks,” naming the Iranian-supported Kata’ib Hezbollah and Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq, which are part of the PMF.

According to Iraq analyst Joel Wing, there have been 25 attacks on convoys carrying supplies to US or coalition facilities in the Green Zone or on the Baghdad airport. He recorded 24 last month, however the PMU are not in favour of targeting diplomatic targets and there are several armed factions operating independently of the PMU. Baghdad airport was also the site of the US assassination of Iranian Quds Force head, General Qassem Soleimani and the deputy head of the PMU, Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis. This prompted Iraqi lawmakers to pass a bill mandating the expulsion of all foreign troops from Iraq. Images of Al-Muhandis adorned some of the vehicles during yesterday’s motorcade in recognition of his role in leading the PMF.

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