Iraqis Protest Against U.S. Presence

This isn’t just another Mideast protest—this one is aimed squarely at America. Iraq’s Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and his followers staged a massive demonstration on Saturday—the eighth anniversary of Saddam Hussein’s fall—demanding that both U.S. troops and civilians leave the country by the end of the year. Thousands of protesters chanted, “We are time bombs” as they marched from Sadr City to Mustansiriya Square near northeast Baghdad, where they burned American flags and displayed pictures of business-suit clad Americans being burned in cages. Sadr is currently studying religion in Iran, but he has become a major political figure after he led the paramilitary Mahdi Army, which fought U.S. forces in 2004. The rally is especially timely since it follows a visit by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who suggested Friday that the U.S. may not leave Iraq for several more years. In a message read by his party official, Sadr threatened that continued U.S. intervention would provoke “escalating the work of the military resistance and re-activating the Mahdi Army.”