Iraqis fear their country, already weary from years of war, may be dragged into a conflict between the United States and Iran, following the US-targeted killing in Baghdad of Iran’s top general, Qassem Soleimani.
“We prayed during the days of Christmas for peace on earth, and the timing of this revenge from America creates in us a big anxiety about what will happen,” Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Yousif Thomas Mirkis of Kirkuk, Iraq, told Catholic News Service.
“This can also divide the population. Some are against. Some are for,” Archbishop Mirkis explained, but warned that the assassination of Soleimani, known as the architect of Tehran’s proxy wars in the Middle East, could spark further sectarian divisions in Iraq between Sunni Muslims and Shi’ites.
Many of the recent demonstrations rocking the capital, Baghdad, and southern Iraq were against the growing influence of Iran and Soleimani’s al-Quds Force inside Iraq. Soleimani was widely seen as the second-most-powerful figure in Iran, behind Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader. Soleimani is believed to have been responsible for hundreds of US service member deaths in Iraq. He was also Iran’s main strategist in the Syrian conflict.
“We only pray that the situation can be calm and peaceful. We are waiting to see,” Archbishop Mirkis said. “The situation in Baghdad and the South is more troubled. But Kirkuk and Kurdistan region is still calm. Until now, this is all that we can say.”
Picture: Demonstrators react during a 3rd January 2020, protest in front of UN offices in Tehran, Iran, after Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani was killed in a US drone airstrike at Baghdad International Airport earlier that day. (CNS photo/Nazanin Tabatabaee, West Asia News Agency via Reuters).