Faiq al-Shakhe, a member of Parliament, said the demonstrators showed, “no signs of happiness or celebration.” Instead, he said, they were worried about a violent response from Iran-aligned militias, who have already killed many protesters and may now, more than ever, see them as agents of the United States.
“It was a wrong act from America because America should have coordinated with the Iraqi government,” said Ameer Abbas, a protester, who shared the widespread view that the American attack was a violation of Iraqi sovereignty.
Another protester, Mustafa Nader, said, “we are all against foreign interventions, whether from Iran, Saudi Arabia or the United States. We do not have a personal problem with Iran, but if America were to intervene at the same level as Iran, you will see as much objection as there has been against Iran, and maybe stronger.”
Emma Sky, a former adviser to American forces in Iraq and a senior fellow at Yale, said the American-Iraqi relationship “is going to be really damaged” by the killing. “I think there will be more calls for the U.S. to withdraw troops,” she said.
She said Americans will be hard pressed to justify a continued presence in Iraq because of the perception that its objectives are not aimed at promoting a stable Iraq, but containing Iran.
“The U.S. doesn’t have a policy on Iraq,” she said. “It has a policy on Iran.”
While Iraq’s Parliament is sure to take up the issue of the American troop presence, few expect the government to actually expel the Americans. Many Iraqi leaders still view an American presence as vital to its security, and depend on American training of the Iraqi security forces and, for better or worse, as a counterweight to Iranian influence.
Still, the Americans are left with few vital defenders in Iraq.
“No one is going to speak up for us, despite all we’ve done and in spite of the mistakes — and God knows we’ve done some bad ones,” said Ryan Crocker, a former United States ambassador to Iraq and now the diplomat in residence at Princeton University. “All we’ve given Iraq, and the Shia in particular, were things they could never have dreamed of before 2003. But that was then and this is now.”
Falih Hassan reported from Baghdad, Tim Arango from Los Angeles and Alissa J. Rubin from Paris. Ben Hubbard contributed reporting from Beirut, Lebanon.