Dozens of Iraqi Shiite militia supporters had gained entry to the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad after reportedly smashing down a gate and storming inside. It came amid protests over a U.S. airstrike, though Trump stressed that the strike was in response to the killing of an American contractor.
“Iran killed an American contractor, wounding many. We strongly responded, and always will,” Trump tweeted Tuesday morning. “Now Iran is orchestrating an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. They will be held fully responsible. In addition, we expect Iraq to use its forces to protect the Embassy, and so notified!”
The breach at the compound followed an earlier attempt by hundreds of Iraqis. The unrest came as Iraqis held funerals for the 25 fighters from Iran-backed Shiite militia Kataeb Hezbollah who were killed in U.S. airstrikes earlier this week, the Associated Press reported. The U.S. military said the airstrikes were in retaliation for last week’s killing of an American contractor in a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base that it had blamed on the militia.
Reporters for the AP described a chaotic scene on the ground Tuesday and said the crowd shouted, “Down, down USA!” An AP reporter at the scene saw flames rising from inside the compound and at least three U.S. soldiers on the roof of the embassy.
There were no reports of casualties, but the unprecedented breach was one of the worst attacks on the embassy in recent memory. Iraq has long struggled to balance its ties with the U.S. and Iran, both allies of the Iraqi government. But the government’s angry reaction to the U.S. airstrikes and its apparent decision not to prevent the protesters from reaching the embassy signaled a sharp deterioration of U.S.-Iraq relations.
Iraqi security forces made no effort to stop the protesters as they marched to the heavily-fortified Green Zone. A man on a loudspeaker later urged the mob not to enter the compound, saying: “The message was delivered.”
Two Iraqi foreign ministry officials initially told Reuters the U.S. ambassador and staff were evacuated, but U.S. officials pushed back, telling Fox News that the embassy has not been evacuated. Further, an official said Ambassador Matthew H. Tueller was not evacuated but has been out of the country on a previously planned vacation.
Iran killed an American contractor, wounding many. We strongly responded, and always will. Now Iran is orchestrating an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. They will be held fully responsible. In addition, we expect Iraq to use its forces to protect the Embassy, and so notified!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 31, 2019
Dozens of Iraqi Shiite militia supporters – many in uniforms – gained entry to the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad on Tuesday after they smashed down a gate and stormed inside, the Associated Press reported.
An AP reporter at the scene saw flames rising from inside the compound and at least three U.S. soldiers on the roof of the embassy. The embassy was evacuated but it was not immediately clear if there were staffers holed up inside.
Hundreds of Iraqis had attempted to storm the compound earlier in the day, following the funerals for 25 fighters from an Iran-backed Shiite militia killed in U.S. airstrikes on Sunday, the Associated Press reported.
Reporters for the AP described a chaotic scene on the ground and reported that the crowd shouted, “Down, down USA!”
Two Iraqi foreign ministry officials told Reuters that the U.S. ambassador and staff have been evacuated. A man on a loudspeaker urged the mob not to enter the compound, saying: “The message was delivered.”
The gate that was smashed was a side entrance. Protesters had pushed about 16 feet into a corridor that leads to the main building but the protesters were still about 200 yards away from it. They raised yellow militia flags and taunted the embassy’s security staff. Graffiti in red, in support of the Kataeb Hezbollah, read: “Closed in the name of the resistance.”
Sen. Marco Rubio took to Twitter early Tuesday and said Iran was directly responsible for orchestrating the breach. There was no immediate comment from the Pentagon and the State Department.
Security guards were seen retreating to the inside of the embassy as the protesters hurled water bottles and smashed security cameras outside the embassies, the report said.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) December 31, 2019
Military jet fighters conducted “precision defensive strikes” on five sites of Kataeb Hezbollah, Jonathan Hoffman, a spokesperson for the Pentagon told Fox News. Two defense officials added that Air Force F-15 jet fighters carried out the strikes.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the strikes send the message that the U.S. will not tolerate actions by Iran that jeopardize American lives.