Iran War: As U.S. sends 3,500 more troops to mideast, the vibe in Baghdad is bad

PHOTO – In this 2016 photo released by the office of Iran's supreme leader, Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, center, attends a meeting with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran. Soleimani was killed yesterday in U.S. airstrike on the Baghdad airport in Iraq.

As the U.S. sends some 3,500 additional troops to the mideast, Washington Post reporter Mustafa Salim [@Mustafa_salimb on Twitter] describes the mood in Baghdad as grim.

In the Washington Post today, he writes, "Streets were quiet. Many restaurants were deserted. Along checkpoints down the streets, young soldiers and militiamen clutched their weapons tight."

A young protester tells him: "World War III is about to happen."

Hope that kid in the street is wrong. Iran has vowed to exact "severe revenge" on the United States after air strikes killed Qasem Soleimani.


Iraqis know well what it means to be trapped in a bloody shadow war between allies Iran and the United States. Some referenced the feeling of calm before the storm that pervaded the days before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. "It's just like 2003, but we have social media this time," one woman wrote in a post.

In Tahrir Square, the epicenter of anti-government protests that have swept the country and decried Iranian influence over Iraq's politics, early morning celebrations over Soleimani's death gave way to a darker mood. Many said they feared a violent assault by Iran-backed militias, as they have already witnessed several times in recent months. Unlike previous Fridays among the protesters, there were no chants, activities or free food. For one of the young men gathered there, Ayad Emad, it was time to leave. "World War III is about to happen and this is beyond demonstrations demanding reforms. No one is going to listen to us, given the circumstances."

More than 500 people have already died in a months-long and Iran-backed campaign to quash the movement. "If there is an act of revenge for what happened this morning, there will be unnecessary bloodshed," Emad said.

IRAN LIVE UPDATES at Washington Post: 3,500 additional U.S. troops headed to Mideast as Iran threatens retaliation