Iraq's populist Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr has called for a "million-man march" against the presence of United States troops in Iraq just days after the country's parliament voted to expel foreign troops from Iraq.
"The skies, land and sovereignty of Iraq are being violated every day by occupying forces," Sadr, who also leads the Sairoon political bloc, wrote on Twitter.
He told Iraqis to hold "a million-man, peaceful, unified demonstration to condemn the American presence and its violations", without specifying a date or location for the march.
On January 5, Iraq's parliament passed a resolution that called on the government to expel foreign troops and cancel its request for assistance from the US-led coalition that had been working with Baghdad to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) group.
Around 5,000 US troops are left in Iraq - most of them soldiers who came to Iraq in an advisory capacity to help the Iran-backed Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF, or Hashd al-Shaabi), an umbrella group of mostly Iran-backed Shia paramilitary groups, from 2014 to 2017 in their fight against ISIL.
The parliament vote came after US air strikes killed Iran's General Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi paramilitary commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis just outside Baghdad International Airport in a move ordered by US President Donald Trump.
Sadr condemned parliament's resolution as a "weak response", saying the move fell short of an appropriate reaction to recent developments in Iraq and calling on armed groups in Iraq to unite.
In a letter to parliament read out by a supporter at the time, Sadr listed a number of demands, including the immediate cancellation of the security agreement with the US, closure of the US embassy, expulsion of US troops in a "humiliating manner", and the criminalisation of communication with the US government.
On Monday, Sadr held a meeting with leaders of several armed groups within the PMF in the Iranian city of Qom.
The meeting was also attended by Kataib Hezbollah, the Iraqi armed group whose 25 fighters were killed when the US launched air strikes against it on December 30, 2019, in response to the killing of a US civilian contractor two days earlier.
It also included Asaib Ahl al-Haq, the Shia armed group led by Qais al-Khazali, who was blacklisted by the US over his alleged role in killings of demonstrators in Iraq.
Nasser al-Shammari, deputy secretary-general of the Hezbollah al-Naujabaa Brigades, another group that attended the meeting in Qom, said in a statement that discussions revolved around the creation of a "united resistance" and ways to dislodge US and other foreign troops from Iraq.
Source: Al Jazeera