Minnesota protesters condemn U.S. airstrikes in Iraq, Syria
St. Paul, MN – Around 30 people lined the busy Lake Street-Marshall Avenue bridge over the Mississippi River between Minneapolis and Saint Paul, June 30, to protest the latest U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. The action was called by Women Against Military Madness and supported by the Anti-War Committee, the Minnesota Peace Action Coalition and other local groups. Peace vigils have been held at the bridge every Wednesday for over 20 years, regardless of weather.
This latest vigil followed the Biden administration’s June 27 announcement that U.S. warplanes had dropped bombs on both sides of the Iraq-Syria border. Several people were reportedly killed in the attack. The targets were militias with Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Force (PMF), which formed in 2014 to stop the reactionary Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group’s rapid advances.
In 2018, the PMF was incorporated into the official security forces of the Iraqi state. The Biden administration said the airstrikes were in response to attacks on U.S. troops by the PMF, which it characterized as “Iran-backed.”
Militant resistance to the U.S. occupation of Iraq intensified after the January 2020 assassinations of top PMF commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Iranian general Qasem Soleimani. The assassinations prompted Iraq’s parliament to call for an immediate U.S. withdrawal, which the U.S. rebuffed. After the June 27 airstrikes, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi condemned the airstrikes as a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty.
At the bridge vigil in Minnesota, Iraqi-American activist Sami Rasouli agreed. “When the military of Iraq was dissolved, Iraq became a wide open arena,” he said. “When ISIS in 2014 invaded Iraq, the Iraqi army that was dissolved came back again, and now is still growing, to defend not only Iraq but Syria too, and Iran.”
Wyatt Miller of the Anti-War Committee added, “These kinds of airstrikes always run the risk of triggering a major regional war. We need to oppose the sanctions, too, and oppose the U.S. military occupation not only of Iraq but of the oilfields in eastern Syria, all of which are contributing to Syria’s inability to rebuild after the war.” In May, Miller travelled with a peace delegation to observe conditions in Syria firsthand.
Syria, which allows the Iraqi PMF to operate on its territory, also condemned the airstrikes, reporting that U.S. bombs had struck a residential building and killed a child while injuring several more civilians. Hours after the airstrikes, U.S. forces occupying Syria’s al-Omar oil field came under rocket attack by resistance forces in the area.