Iran-backed groups urge full US withdrawal from Iraq

US soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division fire artillery in support of Iraqi forces fighting Daesh militants from their base east of Mosul. (AP/File photo)
Updated 06 February 2018
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Iran-backed groups urge full US withdrawal from Iraq

BAGHDAD: Two major Iraqi Shiite groups backed by Iran are demanding all US forces leave Iraq, opposing plans by Baghdad and Washington to keep some there for training and advisory purposes.
An Iraqi government spokesman said on Monday US forces — who number more than 5,000 — had begun reducing their numbers but some would remain.
The Badr Organization, a Shiite group that has a minister in Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi’s government, in charge of the interior, said any remaining US, troops would be cause for instability.
“The two governments should coordinate to ensure a full withdrawal. US presence will be cause for internal polarization and a magnet for terrorists,” Badr spokesman Kareem Nuri said.
Kataib Hezbollah, a more militant, secretive and anti-American group, repeated threats to attack US forces.
“We are serious about getting the Americans out, using the force of arms because the Americans don’t understand any other language,” its spokesman, Jaafar Al-Husseini, told Beirut-based Al-Mayadeen TV on Monday evening.
Kataib Hezbollah has strong links to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps and has threatened to attack US forces several times in the past, describing their presence as an occupation.
A US official in Baghdad said: “We take anything that sounds like a threat from anyone against Americans seriously.”
“There’s not that many of us here and we are all operating within Iraqi military bases. A lot of this is frankly just political posturing and trying to take advantage of stories in the press to make broader political points,” he added.
The US-led international military coalition helped Iraqi forces recapture territory taken by Daesh in 2014 and 2015, providing air and artillery support in the battle to for Mosul, and trained tens of thousands of elite Iraqi soldiers.
“The coalition will tailor our forces in consultation with our Iraqi partners in order to ensure the lasting defeat of Daesh,” the coalition’s director of operations, Brig. Gen. Jonathan Braga, said in a statement on Monday.
Braga said that even if the composition of the force changes, the coalition would maintain the capabilities and presence to continue to train, advise and equip Iraqi forces to ensure that Daesh does not re-emerge.
US officials said that while Daesh has lost most of the territory it once controlled in Iraq and Syria, there is concern about surviving fighters returning to insurgency tactics.


One dead in new protests in southern Iraq: medical source

Updated 20 July 2018
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One dead in new protests in southern Iraq: medical source

Diwaniyah, Iraq: A man was killed Friday during a protest outside the headquarters of an armed group in southern Iraq, a medical source said, as authorities push to contain social unrest.
"A civilian around 20 years old was shot dead," a medical source in the city of Diwaniyah told AFP, as fresh rallies were held across southern Iraq against social and economic woes.
Shots were fired by a guard from the local headquarters of the Badr organisation, a powerful Iranian-backed armed group, where hundreds of people were protesting, the source said.
The latest death brings to nine the number of people killed in the protests, according to multiple sources, while authorities earlier this week said more than 260 security personnel have been wounded.
The unrest erupted in Basra province on July 8 when security forces opened fire, killing one person as protesters demanded jobs and basic services including electricity.
Others killed during the protests were shot by unknown assailants.
The Iraqi government swiftly denounced "vandals" it accused of infiltrating the protests.
The latest demonstrations saw thousands of people gathering across the south and also in the capital Baghdad, where a heavy security presence saw demonstrators dispersed by water canon and tear gas.
The crowds were broken up as they headed towards the fortified Green Zone, a high-security area of Baghdad where the government is headquartered.
In oil-rich Basra, people shouted slogans against the authorities as thousands gathered peacefully outside government headquarters.
Shouting "no to corruption", hundreds of people rallied in Nasiriyah, 160 kilometres (100 miles) northwest of Basra, chanting the anti-graft message which has characterised nearly two weeks of protests.
Demonstrators also surrounded the home of Nasiriyah's governor where security forces responded with tear gas.