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American businesses in Iraq under boycott as anti-US flames blaze

Xinhua | Updated: 2024-06-07 14:34

BAGHDAD -- As the dusk rush for dinner peaks, the KFC outlets on Palestine Street and in Karrada neighborhood in Iraq's capital Baghdad stand eerily empty. Nearby, several police cars are on high alert, with armed Iraqi security forces patrolling the area, as the past few days have witnessed these two American fast-food franchises being attacked multiple times.

In a recent surge of violence against American businesses in Iraq, attacks have become alarmingly frequent.

According to local media, two motorcyclists hurled an explosive device at the KFC on Palestine Street on May 26. The following day, a group of masked men wielding guns and clubs stormed the KFC in Karrada, smashing furniture and other equipment, leaving shattered glass strewn across the floor. On the same day, another American restaurant Chili House and Lee's also came under attack. Early in the morning of May 30, a branch of the American company Caterpillar in Baghdad was targeted with a sound grenade.

Analysts said that these American businesses have become targets mainly due to the perceived US favoritism towards Israel in the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which has infuriated the Arab world, including Iraq.

Ding Long, a professor at Shanghai International Studies University, echoed this sentiment, noting that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has ignited a new round of anti-American wave in Iraq as people believe that the United States has shown partiality for Israel, which is the root cause of the Palestinian issue and the Palestinian national tragedy.

On May 26, Israel bombed a tent camp housing displaced people in Gaza's southern city of Rafah, killing dozens and sparking widespread condemnation.

The White House's claim that Israeli operations and attacks in Rafah do not constitute a major ground operation that crosses any US red lines appears to be the blasting fuse that ignited the latest wave of anti-American sentiment in Iraq.

"Since the outbreak of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict last October, the United States has continuously indulged Israel, sending it a constant supply of weapons while ignoring the living hell that Gaza has become," said Ali, a Baghdad resident.

"How many more innocent lives need to be lost before the US is willing to stop the disaster?" Ali asked.

According to health authorities in the Palestinian enclave, since the Palestinian-Israeli conflict broke out last October, Israeli military actions in Gaza have resulted in over 36,000 Palestinian deaths and more than 82,000 injuries, the majority of whom are women and children. Additionally, due to blockades and famine, Palestinians in Gaza are facing severe survival crises.

"Iraq has endured years of war and conflict, especially since the US invasion in 2003. We empathize with the Palestinian people and stand firmly with them, hoping this catastrophe will end soon," said Omar, a retired Iraqi civil servant with gray hair.

The recent spate of attacks on American businesses in Iraq offers just a glimpse of the broader anti-American sentiment in Iraq.

Since last October, Baghdad has seen countless anti-US and anti-Israel protests, while the Islamic Resistance in Iraq has launched hundreds of attacks on US military bases in Iraq and Syria, as well as Israeli targets.

Additionally, calls from the Iraqi government, militia groups, and the public for US troops to withdraw from Iraq have grown louder. Following the Israeli attack on the Rafah tent camp, Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr even called for the closure of the US embassy in Iraq and the expulsion of the American ambassador.

US Ambassador to Iraq Alina Romanowski condemned on the social media X the violent attacks against US businesses, noting that "these attacks endanger Iraqi lives and property, and could weaken Iraq's ability to attract foreign investment."

The frequent attacks may endanger the security and stability of Iraq and further deteriorate the US-Iraq relations, Ding said.

Western brands in many parts of the world have faced boycotts and other protests during the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Media reports indicate that in Malaysia, over 100 KFC outlets were temporarily closed in April, while Americana Restaurants -- the Middle East and North Africa franchisee of fast-food chains including KFC and Pizza Hut -- reported that its net profits halved in the first quarter of 2024 compared to the same period last year due to ongoing geopolitical tensions in the region.

"Wherever there is America, there is endless turmoil," said Saeed, a university student in Baghdad, adding: "The US supports Israel's killing of Palestinian civilians, so we resolutely boycott American products. Justice will prevail in the end!"

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