Iraqis rallied Thursday in Baghdad to denounce US attempts to prolong its military stay beyond the 2011 deadline
Iraqi demonstrators have gathered Thursday in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad in a massive rally condemning the US attempts to prolong its military presence in the country beyond the 2011 deadline.
An estimated 70,000 people assembled in Sadr City waving Iraqi flags and shouting "No, no, America!", to send a warning message to the US government that Washington is likely to suffer the consequences of extending its presence in their war-torn country. Iraqi military helicopters buzzed overhead while soldiers stood guard to keep peace if needed.
The leader of Iraq's Sadr Movement, Sayyed Muqtada al-Sadr, was expected to be among the officials who’d attend the rally.
Al-Sadr’s top aide, Salah al-Obeidi said the point of the rally was to show that Iraqis are disciplined and can protect the country. A statement by parliament Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi called the march "clear proof to Iraq's unity."
Under a security agreement between Washington and Baghdad, the 46,000 combat troops still in Iraq are required to leave by Dec. 31. But U.S. and Iraqi leaders were reconsidering the deadline for the sake of the country's security.
Earlier on Friday, Dhiya al-Showki, the head of the social committee of the movement, urged the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to follow through on a three-year-old US-Iraqi agreement that calls for all American forces to leave the country by December 31, 2011.
In April, al-Sadr warned of an “escalation of military resistance” in Iraq if the US occupation forces do not leave by the appointed deadline.