Thousands of protestors crowded the streets in Iran, shouting “Down with the USA!” according to footage from the Guardian. However, in Ahvaz, “where large numbers of people turned out to mourn Soleimani, the government has forced students and officials to attend,” according to Masih Alinejad from The Washington Post.
This happened shortly after a U.S. drone strike killed Qasem Soleimani, a high-ranking Iraqi military official who was head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force (IRGC-QF) that was designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. in 2007. The strike also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the head of Iraq’s Kata’ib Hezbollah militia group who were leaving the Baghdad airport.
In 2016, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), known by some as the Iran nuclear deal, was implemented, with the goal to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. President Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from JCPOA in May 2018. The deal did not protect American National Security Interests and enriched Iran, a White House press release said.
“People seeing the strike on Soleimani would maybe say that was inevitable after the JCPOA,” said Dr. Ruby Libertus, an assistant professor of International Relations at ORU. “These kinds of heightened tensions with Iran, [or] physical encounters with Iran, have increased since leaving that, and of course with the maximum pressure from the United States on that Deal.”
Since the Iranian Hostage Crisis in 1979, where Americans were held in the U.S. Embassy in Tehran for 444 days, diplomatic relations between the two nations have been sparse.
“It was very clear, Qasem Soleimani himself was plotting a broad large scale attack against American interests, and those attacks were Imminent,” said the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, defending the drone strike on Soleimani and al-Muhandis.
Although no one was killed in a retaliatory attack on a U.S. Air Force base within Iraq, 34 U.S. troops were diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries, according to the Pentagon. Shortly after this attack, Iran shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet over Iran, killing all 176 passengers aboard. Iran initially denied shooting down the plane, but three days later, they admitted to accidentally firing missiles at the airliner. In recent days, many people in Iran and Iraq have protested both Iran and the United States, increasing the protests against Iran following the news of the plane being shot down by Iran.
“[Iran] definitely [has] been running Baghdad until recently. Quite a few of those protests were to say enough of Iranian influence here,” said Dr. Libertus.
On Jan. 11, President Trump tweeted, “The government of Iran must allow human rights groups to monitor and report facts from the ground on the ongoing protests by the Iranian people.”