Soldiers of the Iraqi armed forces take part in a military parade in central Baghdad, July 14, 2016.Photo: AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region- Marking the 14th of July coup that overthrew Iraq’s monarchy in 1958 Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi oversaw a military parade in central Baghdad where he praised his army’s latest victories against the Islamic State (ISIS).
A Shiite militia spokesperson told Rudaw that the parade was as much about celebrating the liberation of the Sunni city of Fallujah from ISIS last month as it was about the July 14th event.
“This parade was planned three weeks ago to mark the Iraqi forces' success in Fallujah,” he said.
According to Rudaw correspondent in Baghdad Barham Hassan, members of the Iran-backed Shiite militia group known as Hashd al-Shaabi participated in the parade that took place at Baghdad’s Tahrir Square.
Tahrir Square has been the site of anti-government demonstrations in recent months.
Aws al-Khafaji, a Shiite militia spokesman, told Rudaw that many troops had been brought to Baghdad from parts of the country to attend the parade after which they were dispatched to their front lines.
The parade that was attended by members of the UN staff in Iraq, also included the federal police and security forces.
Today’s parade was Iraq’s biggest since the ouster of the former regime thirteen years ago in which an estimated 15,000 soldiers participated.
The Iraqi army has recorded several victories against ISIS in the last two months.
In June they managed two drive ISIS militants from Fallujah after two weeks of intense battle and on Saturday they captured the Qayara airfield from the group southeast of Mosul.
Heavy fighting is still ongoing between the army and entrenched militants for the town of Qayara itself.
Some observers see Abadi’s military parade in central Baghdad and in Tahrir Square in particular as a show of force against Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr who has threatened a million-man march in the capital on Friday.
Earlier this week a group of Shiite clerics—encouraged by PM Abadi—traveled to the city of Najaf to dissuade Sadr from holding the march which according to reports they failed to achieve.
Sadr has blamed Abadi’s government for failing security around Baghdad and on Tuesday he arrived in military uniform at the scene of Karrada’s deadly bombing earlier this month that killed more than 292 people.
Abadi has called on all Iraqis and political groups in recent weeks to stand by the army and its successes against ISIS and not disrupt their advance with demonstrations and political rivalry.