Though Iraq’s government had mostly managed to keep the protesters off the streets over the past several weeks, a massive rally organized by supporters of Moqtada al-Sadr took place in the capital city of Baghdad today. There, tens of thousands of Shi’ites marched to Sadr City, condemning the US and demanding that the American troops leave by December 31.
The march featured thousands of people wearing red white and black Iraqi flag uniforms, and included warnings that the mass of followers of Sadr could reform the Mahdi Army and resist the US occupation if the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) deadline is not honored.
US officials have repeatedly pressed Prime Minister Maliki to accept an open-ended US presence, and have argued that keeping US troops in Iraq would be a great way to spite neighboring Iran.
But they are extremely uncomfortable to hear how unpopular the occupation has become, with US commander Major General Jeffrey Buchanan slamming the protest march, saying it was “an affront to Iraq’s democracy.”