Just days ahead of the second anniversary of the killing of Iran's IRGC Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, pro-Iran factions in Iraq held a mass demonstration just outside Baghdad's Green Zone where the American and other international embassies are located.
The protesters were filmed burning and destroying a large mock US embassy, in what appears a "threat" and possible warning of what's to come. Iranian state media featured and spread the footage, describing the burning of the embassy model as part of events commemorating the "anniversary of the US assassination of Gen. Soleimani"...
The January 3, 2020 US drone strike just outside Baghdad's airport also took out Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, head of Iraq's Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) - which is seen in the West as supported by Tehran. Friday's demonstration was reportedly organized by the PMF.
It also comes at a time Washington's expected withdrawal from Iraq date has come and gone. "Baghdad and Washington announced in July that the full withdrawal of American combat troops from Iraq would be completed by the end of this year," a recent report in The National indicated. "Training and advising missions, however, would continue." So at this point the US deems its "combat mission" as over in the country, and yet hundreds or up to a few thousand troops remain in an 'advisory role'.
In essence the US presence in Iraq has not at all changed or been drawn down, which is sure to keep the Pentagon on a conflict footing with the pro-Iran paramilitary forces across Iraq.
Iranian media quoted one protester at Friday's events outside the Green Zone as saying:
"Today we are remembering the day the evil embassy entered Iraq, the embassy of the great devil; the American embassy that never brings good things to any country, that brought harm to the Iraqi people. Today the Iraqis also mourn Qasem Soleimani and the heroic martyr Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis."
Saturday also witnessed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis take to the street to protest the US and the killing of Soleimani and Muhandis.
🔻Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have rallied ahead of the second anniversary of the US assassination of General Qassem Soleimani & Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.#مليونية_الشهادة_والسيادة pic.twitter.com/3Lt1c2SL6T— اياد المنصوري (@c0fWTvl6Ua60HBs) January 1, 2022
The US is unlikely to leave Iraq anytime soon. Following the White House and Pentagon's horribly bungled and botched evacuation mission from Kabul last August, the Biden administration has come under political pressure to "stay the course" in other conflict theaters.
However, regional leaders who wish to see a swift US departure from the Middle East (including Iraq and northeast Syria), argue that the 'counter-ISIS' mission is over, thus there's no further 'counter-terror' justification for the Pentagon to remain there.