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Iraqis Protest U.S.-Led Airstrikes Against Syria

By Jane Arraf NPR

Demonstrators gathered in major cities across Iraq on Sunday to protest U.S.-led airstrikes against Syria in protests called for by Muqtada al-Sadr, the influential Shiite cleric who led the Mehdi Army that fought U.S. forces after the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003.

The demonstrations took place in Baghdad, Basra and Najaf. Protesters “raised Iraqi and Syrian flag in solidarity with Syrian people. They also chanted against the U.S. and its allies,” according to Iraqi News.

Protesters also burned U.S. and Israeli flags.

Iraq’s foreign ministry warned that the strikes against Syria marked “a very dangerous development.”

“Such action could have dangerous consequences, threatening the security and stability of the region and giving terrorism another opportunity to expand after it was ousted from Iraq and forced into Syria to retreat to a large extent,” the ministry said in a statement quoted by Al-Jazeera.

Regionally, at the Arab League summit over the weekend, the strikes were discussed and Iraq was one of the few countries to condemn them.

The airstrikes in Syria underscore apprehensions in Iraq that the U.S. could be stumbling into a wider war in the same way it lost control of events in Iraq.

As we reported earlier this month, since disbanding the Mehdi Army, Sadr emerged as an Iraqi nationalist.

He has reached out to Saudi Arabia, which is gradually warming up to Iraq after a decade of hostility to the country’s Shiite-led government, to try to lessen Iraq’s isolation in the Arab Gulf countries.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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