Hundreds of protesters gathered on Market Street at the Powell BART Station Saturday. (Courtesy Joe Rivano Barros)

‘Stop bombing Iraq’: Protesters condemn US action in Middle East

Demonstrators took to the streets in cities across the United States and in London on Saturday to protest Washington’s killing of a top Iranian general in Iraq and urge restraint by western governments.

“No justice, no peace, US out of the Middle East,” crowds chanted in New York’s Times Square, holding signs that read “Stop bombing Iraq” and “No war or sanctions on Iran.”

There were similar scenes in Chicago, where around 200 protesters gathered outside the Trump Tower, and in Philadelphia, where about 500 people demonstrated. In San Francisco, hundreds gathered on Market Street near the Powell BART station and marched to U.N. Plaza.

The actor and activist Jane Fonda joined a rally outside the White House in Washington.

Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER), a US-based anti-war coalition, said it and other groups planned around 70 protests after US President Donald Trump ordered an airstrike that killed Qassem Soleimani, the powerful commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force.

The move has sharply escalated tensions in the region. Iranian leaders have vowed “harsh retaliation” for Soleimani’s killing, while Trump defended his decision by saying he had ordered the strike “to stop a war.”

ANSWER said on its website that the protests are “against a new war in the Middle East and calling for the withdrawal of all US troops and bases in the region,” after the Pentagon announced it was deploying around 3,000 additional troops there.

In London, senior lawmakers from Britain’s main opposition Labour party joined dozens of anti-war protesters to urge restraint by Western governments amid tension with Iran.

The Stop the War Coalition organized the protest outside Downing Street, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s official residence.

“From our experience of the build-up to the [2003] Iraq war, it’s vitally important for us to stand up firmly and early for peace,” Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell tweeted.

Richard Burgon, Labour’s shadow justice minister, told the protesters that former US president George W Bush had made clear in a speech 17 years ago that the United States “would launch war on Iraq, regardless of whether there was UN backing or not.”

“And to our shame, our government signed up to that,” Burgon said, adding that “hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died [and] millions of Iraqi lives were destroyed” in the war.

“But a war on Iran could be even more deadly. It risks a new full-scale war in the Middle East that could spiral out of control,” he said.

Ahead of the protest, Stop the War Coalition convenor Lindsey German said the killing of Soleimani was “an act of war” by Trump.

“Trump has been heading for war since tearing up the nuclear deal with Iran, and if he succeeds, [he] will create a bigger war than we have seen in the Middle East,” German said.

Anti-war protests also took place in Berlin and in the Canadian cities of Toronto and Ottawa.

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